First Published in The Independent, June 16th 2006


Flags out now but I wouldn’t put one on my BMW


Let’s hear it for Oliver Neuville for his goal against Poland. Is there a better way to win than by scoring in injury time? OK, penalties are better but we’ll wait for that until we play England. Let’s also hear it for the bloke who sold me a halfway line ticket for only 100 quid outside Westfalenstadion.

So far it has been possible to buy tickets for more or less face value for all but the England matches with loads of sponsors’ tickets being available. The trouble with England is that supporters are so used to paying exorbitant prices for domestic matches that there is little hesitation in forking out astronomical amounts for internationals. Germany is unrecognisable at the moment.
In stark contrast to British stereotypes involving beach towels, Germans are usually eager to keep a low profile and not to show off national insignias. Not now. I have never seen so many black-red-yellow flags in my life. There’s hardly a house or shop without one. And after beating Poland the euphoria will increase even further.

Unlike England, though, there are very few car flags. And the ones you do see are all fixed onto cheap, foreign-made vehicles to increase their perceived value. I personally wouldn’t stick one on my BMW it would only spoil the car’s superbly low air resistance. And when you’re travelling at 150mph on the Autobahn nobody can identify the flag anyway. (Speed is also why Germany doesn’t have any train spotters. The trains are travelling far too fast to take down the registration numbers.)

It goes without saying that all businesses try shamelessly to associate themselves with the World Cup. My local bakery sells a gingerbread named after striker Lukas Podolski. However, the biscuit looks nothing like the striker or any human being. Unless the person took part in that infamous German drug trial.

Let’s hope Wayne Rooney plays against Sweden and brings his tedious injury saga to an end. This whole story shows once again how football has changed. In the good old days he would have said “Gaffer, I’m ready” and would have played. No scans, no lawyers. Where did it all go wrong?
And should Rooney’s return cost Peter Crouch his place in the team I know the perfect Ersatzbefriedigung for him.
He could play for England at the Robocup 2006, the roboter World Cup which is held in Bremen, northern Germany, this week. His trademark dance routine would go down very well with his fellow robots in the humanoid category.

Posted by Henning Wehn on Friday, June 16th, 2006.
Filed Under: Writing



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