wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Sunday, June 25, 2006

USA-GHA I: the experience

So I've been MIA over the past couple of days and I realize there's much to do in the way of catching up the broad readership. Since there are already a million postmortems ranging from angry to indignant to sad about the USA's performance in the World Cup, I'll keep this post to the story of traveling to the match in Nurnberg rather than the details of the (forgettable) game that transpired.

It all began the night before, actually. My friend Tim had rolled into town a couple days prior and I'd been fortunate to arrange a couple tickets to the game (in addition to the one I was already holding). Thing was, they didn't arrive when expected because of some UPS mishap I still dont' understand. So we tracked the package and were promised it would arrive by nine AM on the day of the game--exactly enough time to catch a train to Nurnberg in time for the kickoff.

So the next morning it was time to play the waiting game--we convened at 7am just in case the package arrived early, and I annoyed the hell out of the concierge with phone calls every fifteen minutes asking whether it had arrived (each of which was answered with an icy "Sir, it has not"). Then came the drop-dead time: 9am. No UPS delivery. No tickets. (This isn't necessarily representative of the quality of their service, but next time I send something it's damned well going FedEx. I'm just sayin'.)

Then we decided to leave, figuring that I could use the one I already had and Tim could scalp. We managed to get on a 9.30 train bound for N-burg and I managed to sleep all the way to our connection at Fulda. How was this possible given my history of never catching a single wink in transit? Easy: Canandians. There was a guy sitting across the aisle from me who was from Toronto and who harangued me (in a low-key Canadian way of course) with the most boring string of soccer talk I'd ever heard. He was basically a nice dude, but within ten minutes I was so bored that I fell dead asleep.

After the change at Fulda we picked up the pace. Tim and I spent the remaining two hours of the journey in the cafe car with a bunch of US fans. We'd met a guy on the first train from Berlin who had played high school soccer with John O'Brien, and had ditched his job to travel around Europe for a while. He amused us with a string of barely-coherent anecdotes about the various people he'd met on the road, and impressed us with pics of him in the family section of the Italy game, where he had apparently alienated all the relatives of the US players in the Italy game by blowing a whistle nonstop throughout. We also caught up with a group of guys from the U of South Carolina whose use of face paint was a lot more enthusiastic than it was aesthetically pleasing. (See pic.) They also managed to kill a handle of Jim Beam before the train got to the station, which was all the more impressive since that was apparently just a starter for them.

By the time we got to Nurnberg Hbf, the fan scene was in full swing and again the US fans impressed me both in terms of numbers and noise--I hadn't expected anything quite like this, and it rivaled the Gelsenkirchen game for sheer intensity. Tim was fortunate to scalp a ticket, and we then moved on to a biergarten on the way to the stadium from the train station that was similarly loaded with US fans, as well as a band playing classic American rock anthems (not my music of choice, but it was good for the atmosphere). Tim's enormous red, white, and blue afro wig was undoubtedtly the hit of the party--I lost count of the number of people who came up to him asking to be photographed with it.

Then the game, about which the less said the better, except that my seat wasn't in the supporters section, but was still surrounded by about 80% US fans (overall, I'd say representation was about 70-80% US fans throughout). The Dempsey goal was a great moment--the celebrations actually knocked me off my feet and left me prone in the aisle below me and I now have quite a few bruises to show for it. Speaking of quite a few bruises, DF (always the peacemaker) defuse a possibly dangerous situation when a fairly large US fan to my left began taunting a very large German guy in front of me who was rooting for Ghana. At one point they were actually in each other's faces, and it was more out of a sense of self-preservation than anything else that I stepped in to calm down the US fan.

So after the game we ran back into co-blogger mirarchi and his stepdad and began the long, melancholic trip back to Berlin. But Tim and I had a couple hours before our train left, and joined mirarchi and family for what turned out to be a great meal in the Nurnberg city center. The place was awash with fans but we still managed to find a table in a classic Bavarian restaurant in what appeared to be an old castle. Bratwurst, fried potatoes, and kraut all around--a virtual feast of doom for the old cardiovascular system but undeniably delicious.

On the train platform we ran into Web Guy and spent the rest of the ride camped out in the cafe car, where again I managed to sleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up (it was a direct train), I happened to cross paths with a small group of US fans each lamenting the WC showing. Tim and I ended up talking with a guy who does an NPR radio show (I believe it was called Marketplace, but I'm not a listener, so...), and then the train rolled into Berlin and our day--and the USA's World Cup--was at an end.

{Pic #1: Bewigged Tim draws admirers at Nurnberg fanfest.}
{Pic #2: DF and facepainted South Carolinians on train to game.}
{Pic #3: Pregame scene at Nurnberg fanfest.}
{Pic #4: Tim and FOJOB (friend of John O'Brien).}


Anonymous pay per head service said...

But at least you are trying to catch up. When I am traveling I try to be in touch thanks to some apps but there aren't nothing like working from home.

6:34 PM, October 25, 2012


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