Hamburg, Mannheim, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim
Group B Fritz Walter Stadion Kaiserslautern 21.00
Paraguay v Trinidad & Tobago
Returning to Kaiserslautern just 4 days after my last visit gave me a chance to view it in a different light. Last time was a hasty visit, as I arrived without a ticket 45 minutes before kick off. The security seemed tight, perhaps because the U.S. team were in town and the region hosts some 40,000 American military in local bases. Then I had to face the hike to the stadium, which means that you climb all the way around the vast banks of seats that you see on TV. (These lucky folks in the photo are climbing the steps directly to the stadium, I wasn’t so lucky as my ticket was for the other side of the ground I had to walk round the hillside). This time I arrived in plenty of time and followed the crowd out of the station and on to the fan mile (another common theme in host cities). The main shopping street was decked out with banners and stalls selling food, beer, football merchandise and more beer. As Germany were playing in the afternoon, the main street was gridlocked with pedestrians but no-one minded. The Germans cheered their goals as they went in but in between it was clear they had taken the side of Trinidad & Tobago as they joined in with chants of “Trinidad, Tobago”. After the recent Sweden v Paraguay game a Swede told me that it was the biggest following of Sweden fans ever at a game outside of Sweden. Today I believe it was Trinidad & Tobago’s turn to have their largest ever following, as the steel band playing in the main street enchanted yet more locals. I am told it resembled carnival scenes in Trinidad, apparently Tobago is much quieter. The Trinidad & Tobago team assembled was probably as close as we will get to seeing a British Olympic football team as the squad consisted of 15 players drawn from the lower leagues in Scotland, Wales and England. Encouraged by chants of “We can win” the players gave their all and had the majority of the crowd giving them backing they could never have dreamed possible.