Photographer's Note

They came to Germany from all corners of the earth, and yesterday they all left, providing Berlin’s airports with their busiest day in their history. And if you had just arrived from another planet, and didn’t know why these hundreds of thousands of people with painted faces and strange tri-colour hats were in Germany, the decorations at Berlin’s Tegel airport might have provided a clue.

I was one of the lucky 70,000 that had a ticket to the World Cup final, but I wasn’t so lucky finding somewhere to stay. The only accommodation I could find was a small hotel out in the country about 30 kms to the west of Berlin.

When I arrived late Sunday afternoon, the hotel proprietor told me that it was easy to get to the stadium – all I had to do was walk 1 km along a road through a forest, and I would find a station at the village of Finkenkrug from which I could take a train to Spandau, and then change onto another train for the Olympic Stadium. Only problem was when I got to the station, the next train was not for another 45 minutes, and there were no taxis around, so I had no option but to wait. I ended up reaching the stadium just one minute before kick-off, so missed all the hip-swinging pre-match entertainment.

I had to push my way past hundreds of people outside the stadium, many of whom were pleading with me to sell my ticket to them – one Italian guy was so upset about not having a ticket he was nearly in tears.

I had decided to support France because the Italians had knocked the Australians out of the tournament with a single goal from a very dubious penalty call by a Spanish referee who will probably never dare to set foot in Australia, but when I took my seat I found I was surrounded by vocal Italian supporters. I tried to appear ‘neutral’ but momentarily forgot when France scored the first goal – I cheered, and all the Italians turned and glared at me, so I sunk back into my seat and kept quiet after that.

A man in his early twenties next to me was constantly punching the air with his fist shouting “Italia, Italia” and I spent most of the match trying to dodge his elbow. After the French scored their goal in the seventh minute, he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and chain-smoked his way through the rest of the match (not a very pleasant experience for a non-smoker). A young Italian girl behind me was so nervous she was constantly kicking me in the back with her feet, and when the Italians were ruled offside after putting the ball into the net in the second half, the supporters on the other side of me jumped up in protest and spilled a mug of beer over my feet.

It was an exciting match, and a great experience to be there, but not such a great ‘spectator experience’. As I walked back through the dark forest near my hotel in the early hours of the morning, in my beer sodden socks and shoes, I wondered whether I should have sold my ticket to the teary eyed Italian outside the stadium after all.

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Viewed: 1923
Points: 26
Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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