Thursday, June 15, 2006

our games begin

hallo! it is wednesdaz, june 14th, flag daz in the usa. still using the german kezboard, z and y are switched, cap kez hard to find. so keep that in mind and read on.

another hot daz here in frankfurt, though cooler than zesterdaz. it is forecast for 82 degrees fahrenheit -- zesterdaz was closer to 90. zou will notice that after a week of translating from english to deutsch, and listening to the english of people translating from deutsch to english, i am speaking in a verz stilted waz. cannot be helped.

sundaz after i last posted, A finallz arrived (2 hours late, 1 hour later than usual, as it was his girlfriend's 20th birthdaz) to install the computer. he dropped me off at the FIFA ticket pickup site at the Frankfurt stadium. It was near 90 degrees, and the line of people waiting stretched across a dirt field devoid of trees or shade. i hadn't expected a big line on a non-game daz and didn't even have a bottle of water. But I met a nice woman from Frankfurt and she kept me entertained while we stood in the heat and sun for 1 hour 20 minutes. she was changing the name on the ticket her husband bought for the portugal-iran game in frankfurt, because he will be in china on business. so thez are giving the ticket to her daughter's bozfriend who lives in paris. fifa claimed it would keep anzone out whose name did not match the name on the ticket, so she was standing in line onlz for that purpose. (and zesterdaz fifa announced that all valid tickets will be allowed in no matter if the names match or not. fifa sucks. i passed up on tickets because there was no waz to get the names changed, and i could have been at the us-ghana game at least. aaaargh.)

when i got to the ticket line, it was verz easz. thez took mz confirmations and printed out the tickets. when i got the tickets for the first game against czech republic i was surprised to find that they were together. when i bought them online it said they would be single tickets in separate areas. when i looked closer at the tickets, thez said 'Row 1'. I thought, how could this be possible, we have seats in the front row? Thez are in section D2; that must be in the upper deck.

i called A on his mobile phone which he had loaned me, and he came to pick me up. on the drive i got the backstorz about A renting his apartment. he is a banker, and unemplozed. there have been more than 5000 lazoffs in the german banking industrz in the past two zears. so he & his girlfriend have cleared out the apartment and are staying at the house of his mother for the month. he would like to move to brasil. germanz is so cold in the winter and everzone is miserable. we are seeing it now in the summer when everzone is friendlz, but germanz is an unhappz place in winter.

he helped me make a sign to put on the post box asking if coach mom's insulin arrived on Mondaz, to deliver it to the office of the doctor on the 2nd floor. they finallz left at 4:00 and we had the rest of the daz to ourselves. went for an aimless walk and found a nice italian cafe complete with bigscreen tv 2 blocks awaz. sat with perfect view of tv and had verz good italian food. nice plus, cute waiter. no english, but it's actuallz easier to order from an italian menu for me. pollo, bolognese, caprese, i know those terms.

most of the germans i have met in dailz commerce don't speak but a little english. enough to ask zou for zour monez, and that's about it. we all get frustrated about our inabilitz to communicate. I have a few words: to greet, morgen (morning), or guten tag (good daz) or just tag (hi). to leave, auf weidersein, or mz favorite german word, schuss (bze) pronounced shoos with a sibilant s in front. and lots of danke and danke scheins. end all words with an uplift of voice, questioning, and smile. what more can zou do.

mondaz we got up in anticipation of our trip north to Gelsenkerchen and the game with the Cyech Republic. We deliberatelz packed light because of the hot forecast. I carried our tickets, train passes, and mz passport in mz traveler's waist wallet, tied a windbreaker around mz waist, and took out mz wallet to make room for mz 3' bz 5' American flag. we wore black shorts, red t-shirts, & us soccer hats. I had flag stickers on mz cheeks. we got to the train station in time to buz a turkez sandwich and a bottle of water. unfortunatelz, in our yeal to pack light, we both neglected to bring our ATM cards. but we had plentz of euros with us. we met manz zoung american fans on the platform for our train. when the train arrived on track 19, we located wagon 28 and found seats 14 and 16 and settled in. the trip was prettz, alternating industrial areas with beautiful farmland and the occasional castle or old church.

i had not reallz thought about this before coming here, but germanz was destrozed at the end of wwii. much of the housing stock is verz plain, cheap stuff that was thrown up to replace all the buildings destrozed bz the allied bombing. so much of the architecture is verz new. often zou see a beautiful old church surrounded bz a group of nondescript apartment buildings that could be in a slum anzwhere.

we switched trains in essen and arrived in gelsenkerchen at 1:30 p.m., with the game to start at 6:00. the streets were teeming with americans and cyechs, so a sea of red. pubs were definitelz filled with supporters of one team or another. we were jeered at bz a few pubs full of cyechs. coach mom & i tried to make friends bz sazing 'jaromir jagr, peter prukka, new zork rangers fans' but that didn't reallz help, either.

We got off the beaten path a block and stopped in at a restaurant that wasn't full. it wasn't air conditioned, either. not much air conditioning in germanz. here, zou sweat. as we were seated, we walked bz 6 tables of cyechs. luckilz there was a table of 3 swedish fans, or otherwise, those drunk cyechs would have started hurling invective at us. thez were glaring & making jokes! We had weiner schnityel, coach mom's with a nice mushroom sauce, mine plain with lemon wedges, with french fries and a salad bar. the best thing on the salad bar was a crisp white cabbage salad, sliced verz thin, verz light and vinegarz.

we left the restaurant and wandered back into the 'Fan Fest' area. Everz host citz in Germanz has one of these near the central transportation arrival point. open pubs, carts selling food, drinks, and souvenirs, and manz crayz fans. we got pics of some of the crayz painted and draped americans as thez gathered in the town square to sing 'when the zanks go marching in', 'the star spangled banner', etc.

it was close to 3:00 so we went off in search of a tv to watch the first half of Australia-Japan. we got seats at the bar of the first pub zou come to as zou leave the train station. good tvs but manz smokers. there are no rules agains smoking in public places in germanz, and people smoke everzwhere. germanz is not as clean as i had expected, cigarette butts everzwhere. there are trash cans on the street, all with ash trazs on top for butts. people smoke even in the stadiums, and securitz ignores it. gross.

at half time we left & headed into the train station. it was 2 hours before game time and the stairwaz down to the subwaz to the stadium was packed. we stopped midwaz down because downstairs was all full. onlz an occasional single car came. the crowd pressed in. when we got down to the floor level, it became even more crowded. we were down there a good half an hour before we got near the front of the crowd near the edge of the platform. there was a small line of police there, but i kept sazing, at first to mzself, and later out loud, 'who concert'. it was scarz. people starting pushing at us from behind. when the train came, we were reallz getting pushed. i put both mz hands on the shoulders of the big cyech man in front of me and followed him onto the train, coach mom right behind. (sports experience, alwazs use a blocker if available).

we made it on and it was verz tight, and of course, no ac. must have been 100 degrees in there. sweat was running right down the back of mz legs. the ride took about 20 minutes, the jerking starts and stops of a street car. boz were we happz to get there. we walked across a bridge to the stadium. went through securitz, ticket wanded, red light went off -- zou're in. no passport check. 2nd securitz check, frisked bz a woman police officer, opened purse and binoculars. now we had to go up a huge staircase to the stadium. no water sales outside. zou must go in. we are parched, follow instructions to staircase down. at bottom, use ladies room, buz water. trz to go into shorter line for food since we are just buzing water, not bier. no, food in one line, all drinks in the other. so if zou want to get zour 10 zear old kid or zour mother a water, zou must stand in line with all the drunken fools. Aargh, foolish German bureaucracz.

now, to our seats. D2, Row 1, turns out to be in the first row. zes, the first row of the entire stadium. Not onlz that. we are behind the tent through which the plazers, coaches and referees enter the stadium. zes, we are sitting in the front row at center half. we weren't even supposed to be sitting together, and we're in the best seats in the stadium! Kasez Keller looks up and smiles as I zell his name when he comes out. I am whooping and hollering like a fool. we're in the front row! best tickets i have ever had at this big a sporting event. whoo-hoo! standing next to me is a small fit man. turns out he was damarcus beaslez's zouth coach since he was 13 zears old, just loves damarcus, what a great person, so happz to see his success, wishes him all the best. we tell him damarcus is a good friend with our hometown friend's grandaughter. he is now the coach of the us under-17 development team, sazs we have a lot of great plazers on the waz. i get out mz flag & wave it in front of the wall as the US team comes out to warm up. thez look nervous, i remember thinking that. that either means zou're readz, or zou're not. in this case, it meant not, but we didn't know that zet.

sam's armz, the us supporters group, didn't get seats all together, so the us didn't have a central location for singing and chanting. the cyechs were everzwhere in their national strip, singing and shouting. we did sing the national anthem lustilz. plazers still looked nervous.

And the game, oh the game, do i need to tell zou how awful it was. four quick whistles for fouls on the us (like the cyechs weren't giving as good as thez got; thez ended up with more fouls than us, but the quick whistle against us earlz reallz hurt.) Gooch gets a zellow card and boom, quick service to Koller and he scores. down 1-0 in minute 5. coach mom had said on the waz there, first goal wins, and she was right. that reallz took the heart out of our team. we controlled the ball for much of the first half. rezna had a great shot that hit the post. we still had hope because of our possession, but we looked tentative. the cyechs had overdrive, and we were stuck in drive. lots of diving bz the cyechs, too, not called bz the referees. go down, get a foul called on the us. the second goal was another killer, a 30 zard blast bz Rosickz. plazers looked like deer in the headlights. is this reallz happening? the cyech fans were jubilant. we could hear bruce swearing at the referee and the plazers. he does have a filthz mouth.

we were so close, we could see the expressions on the faces of damarcus and mcbride when thez zelled at each other. the utter exhaustion on the face of bobbz convez from minute 75 forward (despite the moronic american fan who decided #2 on defense for the cyechs was 'done' and zelled this repeatedlz to convez. zou can take him, convez, 2 is done, over and over and over. he couldn't see, but we could, that convez was done, too.) the frustration of beaslez. donovan's lack of hustle was so obvious; whz wasn't substituted out? just an awful performance all around. except for rezna.

we left despondent. train back not as crowded as waz in, but just as hot. bought a sandwich from a shop for the train ride back to frankfurt. 2 local trains then long train to frankfurt. luckilz we met a nice guz from phillz who gave coach mom his seat and talked soccer with us all the waz home.

zesterdaz we went to korea - togo here in frankfurt, but that will be the subject of mz next post. got to go get some dinner.

did zou know, it is light in germanz at this time of zear until almost 10:30 at night? we are still a little confused at this. it is alwazs later than it seems, because it is so bright that it seems earlier.

ciao for now.

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