A twenty minute ride from downtown Cologne Dominoqq and I was at the Rhein-Energie stadium (looks like the corporate naming disease has infected Germany too). It is a classic English-style arena but perfectly symmetrical and set amidst rolling green fields.
Inside the ground I got my first sight of next year’s World Cup official refreshments. Oh dear it is true. Crudweiser is the official and only beer on sale. The world’s best selling and worst tasting beer that no self-respecting European would be seen dead preferring to a local brew. As if to shamefully appeal to Germans’ sense of ancestral pride however, the famous Budweiser name is relegated to small letters below the larger name of its German founders Anheuser-Busch. A crushing blow for money against sense. Also, €3 for a small bottle of water guys?
Tunisian fans had turned out in large numbers as expected given their expat strength (most were speaking German) but the ground remained half-empty. The only chant I heard of ‘Argentina’ was raised after their second goal but petered out again quickly.
In the press box I was sat beside 2 journalists from France’s marvellous sports daily l’Equipe, who opined to me that Roger Lemerre, the current Tunisia and former France coach was “just mad”. On my other flank was an Indonesian man who took no notes during the game and post match just posed for photos with the Argentine players, a fan masquerading as a reporter methinks!
It was a surprise to see Franz Beckenbauer on the big screen given Germany were kicking off in Frankfurt later that night but it seemed certain that the yellow helicopter that took off just behind the stadium at half-time was Der Kaiser’s private taxi on the way to his as yet undeclared assault on the UEFA presidency in 2007.
After the game the players had a labyrinthine walk past all the journalists and it was a delight to speak to Zanetti in Italian and discover Gabriel Heinze speaks fluent French.
A quiet start overall but on the train to Frankfurt that night the announcer gave the latest scores from the Conf. Cup and the Women’s Euro 2005 tournament! Imagine that on a Shinkansen.