Tag Archives: 2006 Fifa World Cup

Fifa Fever in Hamburg

At the time of our visit, Hamburg City was high on the FIFA fever that had gripped Germany as their team crashed through the gripping quarter final game against Argentina.

Hamburg's town hall
Hamburg’s town hall

It wasn’t just the German flag, out of the closet where it had mostly been banished to gather dust since world war two, now waving from apartments and fluttering from cars. It wasn’t the bright blue neon soccer “goals” that beamed down from high rise buildings. It wasn’t  the festive feeling of the city, where the smell of sizzling bratwursts filled the air, where beer flowed and friendships formed while oompah bands in lederhosen tootled away on street corners. It wasn’t even the brother-and-sisterhood of football jersey. It was that nothing else seemed to matter, that the cup was the star and the centre of everything, that the world had stopped and everyone had stepped off for the moment.

The city was dressed for the Cup. Department store window displays were all about football. Inside, the trail of paraphernalia led from floor to floor; Food Hall – chocolates and sweets; China – cups, glasses and plates; Accessories – scarves, hats, wallets and bags; Stationery – pencils and rulers, pens and paper; Toys – teddy bears, dolls, figurines, games, stickers and posters; Intimate apparel – undies and socks; Nightwear – pyjamas and nightshirts; Menswear and women’s wear – t shirts and shorts; Sports goods, where among balls, bags, and boots, the highly priced colours of the victors had pride of place, while squashed all together, on a hanger with wheels, were the sorry, discounted strips of the defeated. Outside in the streets, stalls offered more; clackers and hooters, pennants and badges, whistles and streamers, caps and headscarves, bunches of flags of all sizes and colours and a united nations of disembodied jerseys swinging from poles.

The blue neon goals held the high places of Hamburg, beaming down after dark from rooftop to rooftop, glittering strangely in the daytime sun. Lower down apartment windows flew an avenue of German flags. Below on the roads, they fluttered from the windows of passing. But in the streets, squares, parks, cafes and shops the football jersey held sway. They were every where – from every country and corner of the world, on people of every age, race and colour.

Along the lake there was a village of food tents. People dithered in salivating huddles before an a to z of sizzling wursts, then there was the strudel, the brot, the puffe the ban and the kuchen and after that the doner kebab, the hot dog, the hamburger, the chips, the crepe and the panini. In the beer tents, choices seemed simpler but still there was a palette of shades between blond and brun.

The weather was a hot and unheard of twenty eight degrees. The the sun was shining and the sky was a perfect blue. Locals shook their heads in disbelief. They’d never known Hamburg weather like this. They’d never seen Hamburg like this. Never seen the flag fly proudly like this. Never known a time like this.



FIFA World Cup Wedding

The FIFA World Cup was on when we were in Hamburg in 2006. But Football fever seemed hardly to touch the peaceful Hotel Treudelberg Golf and Country Club, at the edge of forest, on the outskirts of Hamburg, until that memorable day when Germany met Argentina in the quarter final.

Hotel Treudelberg terrace  at dusk
Hotel Treudelberg terrace at dusk

Football is, of course, highly popular in Germany, especially during World Cup season, and especially when Germany are hosting the World Cup. However, until the last 8 teams went to play each other, we hadn’t really seen a huge amount of interest in Deustchland’s favourite soccer players where we were.

At five o’clock, the terrace was deserted. The chattering fountain was the only voice in the garden, the swaying trees the only dancers on the lawn and on the golf course, only a lonely flag waited at the first tee. Inside, the corridors were quiet, the pool, the gym, the sauna and the beauty center were empty. There was no rumble of industry from the conference rooms.

“The game” said the smiling receptionist as she pointed me to the bar

“Oh, of course, the game!”

Inside the bar, the crowd stood shoulder to shoulder, squeezed into corners and squashed against walls. There were elderly ladies in brocade frock-coat ensembles; white-haired, jovial red-faced gents in waistcoats; a circle of middle-aged cigar-smokers in shirt-sleeves; elegant, coiffed, bronzed matrons in cut-away, slashed down-to-there, split-up-to-here dresses and dangerous heels. Blondes with umbrella drinks, big hair and beach-ball bums teetered on bar-stools. There was a team of beer-drinking suits. At the bar was a man with a flower in his button-hole. Right at the front was a woman in bridal whites . Her eyes were fixed, like everyone else’s, on the TV screen where eleven Germans and eleven Argentineans chased a black and white ball backwards and forwards across a rectangle of green.

A scoreless first half ended with snorts of frustration and shaking of heads. Brocades, suits, stilettos, cigar smokers and beach balls receded like a rip-tide, leaving glasses and cigarettes, bags, stoles and jackets like flotsam and jetsam on tables and chairs. There was a lull in the bar, like the eye of a storm. Figures took shape in dim corners; a few football jerseys, a couple of golfers; conference people in logo tee shirts. There was a re-claiming of space, a charging of glasses, an exchanging of nods; a bonding of sorts.

Outside, under the umbrella, the man with the button-hole and the woman in white joined hands. Their friends closed in and blocked them from view. It was still for a second. Then the circle unwound and raced to the bar. Bride and groom shared a kiss and dashed after them.

It was four minutes into the second half and the commentator called the game in tones of mounting panic. “Nein! Nein!’ screamed the anguished crowd as Argentina scored. A lone cheer from a shadowed corner fell into a leaden silence.

There were ten minutes left when Miroslav Klose flipped the ball into goal. Bronzed arms waved above coiffured heads.

“Deutschland!” clap, clap, clap “Deutschland!” clap, clap, clap.

Shirt-sleeves thumped waist-coated backs. Beach balls and big hair bounced up and down. Brocades smacked kisses on startled red-faces. Bellowed snatches of “Deutschland Deutschland uber alles” transported the suits.

The air buzzed like an electrical field through extra time. People sprang to their feet yelling “Jaaaaaaaa!” as the ball spun towards the German goal, then sank into in their seats as Argentina snatched it away crying “Neieeeeeiiiin!

And finally, we arrived at that hour of judgement, that time of reckoning, that Armageddon of football – the penalty shoot out. Glasses were filled, smokes were lit, everyone settled, tensed, readied. The countdown began.

“Ein! Zwei!……Drei!………..”

If there was a voice raised for Argentina it was lost in the roar.


It was a German win! There was shouting, singing, cheering, laughing, crying, embracing – shirt-sleeves and big-hair, suits and stilettos, white-hair and beach balls, waistcoats and brocade, football jerseys and big hair, golfers and bronzées, conferenciers and coiffures, barmaid and barman, bride and groom, all on the same side now, all whirling around in a demented dance.

The commentator’s voice was drowned out. The TV flickered, forgotten, in its corner. The joy, the jubilation, the disappointment, the tears and the after-match ugliness played on, unheard and unseen, till the screen snapped off and it all vanished into blackness.

The bride and groom led their guests away, out through the French doors, and across the terrace. From a lawn striped with shadows, they threw bunches of white balloons into the fading sky. The trees shivered in the breeze, the fountain dropped curls of misty spray on the pond and beyond it, a group of golfers teed off, then chased specks of white along the darkening fairway.

There was an emptiness now in the bar and a tiny tinge of sadness, like the one that follows the end of a good book. But there was also a feeling anticipation and a sense of excitement too, like the one that comes when there’s more to the story.