As the qualifying games for the 2014 football World Cup begin to draw to a close, I can’t help but think back to a road trip I undertook back in the summer of 2006. Germany was hosting the World Cup and although we didn’t have any match tickets, Chris, two of his friends, and I, were keen to soak up the atmosphere and watch some games in the huge public ‘fan parks’ which were set up across the country. The city of Dortmund, Germany, is a football-mad city and so it was the perfect place to go and experience some World Cup fever. What’s more, I used to live in Dortmund back in my care-free student days and so still had a lot of friends living there.
The plan was to drive from Bedford, England, all the way to Dortmund. I was the only German among three English football fanatics who were so excited not only by the prospect of driving all the way from England to Germany, but who were also looking forward to enjoying some massive quarter-final games – including Germany vs. Argentina and England vs. Portugal. Of course the added bonus for them during the journey was having a poor, isolated German (i.e. me) trapped in close confines so they could gang up on me by repeatedly stressing how rubbish the German team was this time around and how inevitable it was that England’s time had finally come – about time, I thought, as they haven’t won anything in international football since before man landed on the moon.
The whole journey took us about 8 hours of driving plus a night in Dover before catching the train through the Channel Tunnel. When we arrived in Dortmund the atmosphere was just as expected. Thousands of football fans from all over the world were partying together peacefully in the massive fan parks and we’d arrived just in time to catch a hugely important game, Germany vs. Argentina in the quarter-final. We watched the game with a group of my German friends who were amused to find the three English fans debating intensely which of the two teams they hated the most. In the end they decided they disliked the two teams equally and so hoped that both Germany and Argentina would miraculously both lose the game and be knocked out simultaneously! Of course none of my German friends were in the least bit phased by this banter, expressing with cool, calm, and confident Teutonic certainty that Germany would of course prevail, which of course they did – and on penalties…of course.
I spent most of the next day shaking off my hangover, safe in the knowledge Germany had reached yet another semi-final while England were due to line up against Portugal, complete with the sublime, love-him or hate-him, Cristiano Ronaldo. We watched the game in a fan park were thousands of England and Portugal fans stood nervously side-by-side. The game was a tense affair – as I’ve come to realise England games usually are – and one which will always be remembered for that cheeky little wink from Ronaldo which sent the three English men into a biblical rage. Ultimately England was defeated on penalties – I know, who would have predicted that. The guys were understandably disappointed, distraught even. So disappointed in fact that between them they barely managed to utter a single word for the rest of the evening.
I thought that they just need some time and a few beers to get over it and that by the next morning everything would be fine again. Turns out I was wrong and the defeat lingered long into the next day, which, I can tell you, made the journey back an excruciatingly long one. Gone was the mocking, the singing of football songs, and have I mentioned the (totally misplaced) mocking of the only German in the car. Knowing how seriously English men take their football I had seen this coming and so was prepared for everything Bayswater Car Rental suggests to survive a long car journey, such as food, drinks and blankets. And a long car journey it was.
To be honest I did feel a bit sorry for them, having driven all the way from England only to see their beloved side crash out of another World Cup on penalties, again. But then after the way they’d treated me, I can’t say I shed that many tears for them!