Italy v. Ukraine Quarterfinal - Hamburg

Italy v. Australia - Kaiserslautern - worst host city in Germany

Czech Republic v. Italy - Volksparkstadion Hamburg

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia v. Ukraine - Volksparkstadion Hamburg

Italy v. United States - Fritz Walter Stadion Kaiserslautern

Deutschland v. Polen (Dortmund) - Hamburg Fan Festival

United States v. Czech Republic - Arena auf Schalke Gelsenkirchen

Non-World Cup Germany


Czech Republic v. Italy

"Roman battalions kept an elephant among their ranks, not because they contributed much from a military perspective, but for the gawping delirium this berserk addition to the artillery would evoke in opponents. And to witness the affable gangle-tang of limbs sans gorm must at least bemuse our foes.

What a delightful double act Crouch and Rooney made in the second half against Trinidad & Tobago. Rooney's porcine squint bristling with bound devastation like febrile livestock, a rosette-spattered minotaur so brimming with force that when denied action, he's a danger to his teammates and himself.

It's easy to imagine this destructive, Kali-like energy leading young Wayne into the crimson-lipped arms of a snaggle-toothed matriarch just to grunt and vent his darkly beautiful potency."

Russell Brand (edited for style)

"On the tram back I discussed the match with a gay Iranian couple, one of whom wore a very tight white T-shirt and spoke with impressive authority about the problems with the Iranian midfield, in a camp and slightly American accent. If I'm ever asked to make one of those lists of 50 things you should do before you die, one will be "Discuss how to move quickly on the break with gay Iranians on a tram." The problem with Iran, apparently, is it needs modernising. But England is some way from having a football pundit who says: "You back off a player like Figo in the final third, believe me, honey, you're so dead."

Mark Steel

Separated at birth?
Is it just me or is Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo a dead ringer for Udo Kier?
Luis Medina CantalejoUdo Kier

Brush with the Stars
While in Germany I had a few brushes with the stars. Second up was on the nightmare train ride out of Kaiserslautern after the Italy-USA match where I found myself on the floor behind the seated Christian Miles of Fox Sports World. Not exactly a world-famous star but I recognized his voice as I continued a conversation with him and when I finally saw his face realized why, despite his being hoarse, he sounded familiar. I initially had butted into a conversation with him when I felt compelled to correct his assertion that Kaiserslautern had not been home to a Bundesliga team for two years. 1FCK were actually relegated only this past spring so he was off by a good two years. I had to come to the defense of my team!

But previous to that, outside the stadium after the USA-Italy match, right after telling my companions in typical know-it-all fashion that the US team would've been better with a speedy attacking defender like Frankie Hejduk we run into none other than the man himself, Frankie Hejduk. So naturally I ask the man for a photo, forgetting I'm wearing an Italy shirt. He says "hey, Italy!" But I made a quick excuse, put my arm around him and we got the photo. Frankie was nice & made a good first impression. I probably wouldn't have noticed him but for the hoard surrounding him all wearing USA jerseys with Hejduk printed on the back. That made the small part of my brain still working at that moment sit up and take notice and suddenly there was Frankie.

me & Frankie Hejduk

We walked a bit further after seeing Frankie and there was Thomas Rongen, the Dutchman currently head coach of Major League Soccer's Chivas.

Later in the tournament while leaving the Fritz Walter Stadion after Italy-Australia we saw Stefan Effenberg walking the opposite way on the street. He looked pretty big from 25 yards away.

After the quarterfinals I shared the train from Hamburg to Frankfurt with Mexico's Pavel Pardo. Not a big guy, to say the least, but he looked sharp, well-groomed (sounds like I'm talking about a dog) and up close he's rather pretty.

Finally, after my long journey home while taking the American Airlines tram from one terminal to the next I shared a tram with the actor Ciarán Hinds. He was twitchy, seemed sort of nervous, was briefly fascinated by a plane taking off, but all the while maintained his actor's straight posture like the back of his mind is always controlling his body. I couldn't think of his name at the moment or I'd have asked him for a photo. He was in Texas at the time filming a movie, There Will Be Blood. I did surreptitiously snap a photo with my cell phone camera.

Ciaran Hinds

Wednesday June 26
I'm in Colmar, France, in the Alsace region, which is as much German as French. Except when it comes to soccer. Tuesday night showed they are 100% French here. It's a small town, across the border from Freiburg, Germany. But at the final whistle, after Zinedine Zidane had showed he still has it, they took to the streets in cars, motorcycles, scooters & bicycles to celebrate well into the early hours (the match ended shortly before 11:00pm local time) with honking horns, whistles, flags and a gauntlet to be run by any driver brave enough to enter the roundabout at the heart of the old town here, where each entering car was given a furious rocking from all sides by young people delirious and perhaps disbelieving. Oh, and from a car full of young, lithe north African guys one of them kept getting out and dancing on the roof the car and showing his bare butt to everyone. And a fine butt it was..

We struggled to find a place showing the game here in the hour before kickoff. We'd watched Brazil escorted through to the quarterfinals by a combination of kind officiating & poor finishing from Ghana at an Australia-themed bar but were hoping for something a bit more grown-up for the big evening match. But as we walked through the old part of town here all we found were 3 teenaged boys, one with a flag, singing Le Marseillaise and telling us to go to the very same bar we'd sworn off earlier "by cinema, oui, cinema." Taking our leave of them I remarked that those must be the only 3 football fans in town. Not my best prognosticating, to be sure.

So we gave up finding another place and headed for the creatively-named Fosters where by this time it seemed every young person in town had crowded in and the heat was too much for me. I eventually moved on to a smaller, air-conditioned bar called Rapido which contained a video game in which you rapidly press buttons to bring about tooth decay in the mouth of a child who screams obligingly as you empty his/her mouth of teeth. You'd think these things would be a huge hit in England, but never having been there I can't say. I can say that I do love my stereotypes, though.

I expected Spain to try to overwhelm France with speed & width while France absorbed the pressure and hit on the counter-attack. And I guess that's pretty much what happened. Obviously someone had got it through the heads of France's midfielders that ploddingly slow build-up play wasn't going to frighten anyone so with an extra bite in the tackle followed by quick-release passing the French eventually got a grip on the game and looking back now really they dominated as Spain had only the penalty and a few other close calls while looking more bewildered as the game progressed. Too bad for them, but great for France and little Colmar, as the only three football fans in town became a thousand by the fulltime whistle. The horns were still honking on the circular drive around the old town center two hours later. This is why we came here - to watch France in France with French people speaking French, though with a bit of German thrown in. After a few beers I came back to my room at the Primo Hotel ( and watched the match again on Eurosport. Long may Zidane live the game.

Tuesday June 25
Italy v. Australia and, well, what? You think I'm going to apologize/rationalize/justify? I don't give a shit. Italy won. Australia - you got served. I did find this, though, on a kangaroo carcass outside the stadium the morning after the match...

Note to Self
Written by Lucas Neill to Lucas Neill (scrawled hastily on back of kangaroo he is fucking in locker room after losing to Italy:)

Dear Self,

Do not lie down in penalty area even if man with ball is crappy Italian defender who probably shouldn't even be in the team. Also, do not believe that annoying compatriots in thousands will have any influence on final score, despite their ten billionth rendition of na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na, or Stand Up For the Socceroos, which only made me want to fuck another kangaroo at halftime, or any other stupidass loud annoying useless cheers which despite probably being as nails on a chalkboard to any three Italy supporters whose tickets were inexplicably right in the fucking middle of the goddamn Australians jesus fucking christ not again they are still better and more inventive than those stupidass USA USA cheers that could put a blow-up sex doll to sleep. Also, do not waste chances to score against defenders as imperious/stupendous/impenetrable/commanding/unbelievable as Fabio Cannavaro. He will laugh at you each time you miss, even after his defensive partner has been sent off, which also made him laugh. At you. For pissing him off. In fact, he will be happy to be left alone in the center because neither you nor anyone from Australia frighten him even a little bit. Which is also why he didn't even bother sending a teammate to defend their left side. Because even though we had a man advantage he knew no harm could come from leaving one-third of the pitch wide open to Australians. And so none did.

PS: there may be a better defender in the world but I can not think of who he might be just now because my head is spinning so fast because I have just been served. And because I am fucking a kangaroo.



Saturday June 24 was kind enough to post my comments re: their comments on Bruce Arena & the Italy-USA match. Unfortunately with the Times recent redesign the link is now broken. Bastards.:

Hell hath no fury like a spoiled American brat soccer fan taking a three week vacation from his vacation life to bitch about his country's performance in the World Cup Finals. I have 48 hours to learn the words to the Italian national anthem.

Here's one from the "did you just figure this out yesterday or were you willfully ignorant 15 months ago when crybabypussy cried all the way home from Germany so he could sleep with his twin sister every night?" book of "journalism."

"Merk's decision to whistle U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu for the aforementioned penalty merely continued that trend. There looked to be minimal contact between Onyewu and Ghanaian forward Razak Pimpong on the play, yet it was enough for Merk to point to the spot. It was obviously a terrible call, and when you combine incidents like this with the fact that the U.S. twice hit the post in the tournament, it's clear that the intangibles that accompanied the team in 2002 abandoned them in 2006.

"We had horrible luck," said Landon Donovan. "I don't know if we pissed someone off somewhere and our karma is coming back or what.""

I like that one, too. So I quote from it. Obviously a terrible call? Take off your splattered blood of Iraqi women & children colored glasses and watch it again. Just because, in soccer terms, you're monstrously huge doesn't mean it's w/in the rules to body-barge opposing forwards in the box. And throwing your hands up like a cop's pointing a gun at you doesn't absolve you of blame. Because if you don't know by now that Markus Merk can be, as we say down south, persnickety, then stupid on you, Oguchi. Same for Mastroweenie. "I got the ball, I got the ball." Hey stupid ass, they told you before the tournament began - no more of that crap. It doesn't fucking matter if you got the ball. Oh, and Mastroweenie, you, like Donovan have improved, let's see, oh yeah, not at all in the past four years. Good job. Del Piero makes your yearly salary in the time it takes to go pick up his morning paper. But hey, look on the bright side - you're not the first player who pooped his diaper coming up against Andrea Pirlo.

They told you don't kick the ball away after a whistle, don't lunge at the ball with one or two feet, don't pull shirts and don't take your frustration out with little pushes & shoves on your opponents (Zizou, where are you?) If you didn't listen at the referees meeting all 32 teams had before the tournament began tough shit shut your fucking pie hole & go home. You added nothing to the tournament but another 88 variations on USA USA. Oh, they did apparently come up with a "new" one in Nuremberg, supposedly singing something along the lines of "and the yanks come marching in" from the train station to the stadium. Wow, now where have I heard that before...oh yeah, watching (mostly) crappy, head-kicking, midfield-avoiding backwardsass tactically inept English soccer every weekend. Good idea copying the habits of people occupying a tiny, now insignificant, island overrun with low-paid Polish workers and Russians with more money than sense. "Want our island? Sure, come on in. We'll sell off our industries one by one then tell everyone how great we are as the house of cards collapses behind the curtain." (Relax, I'm talking about the English government, not your average working man/woman who by all accounts is decent & honest. Probably.)

And Donovan says they had terrible luck. Yeah, terrible luck in having a tiny crybaby pussy douchebag content to pick daisies in MLS being given playing time in the World Cup fucking Finals. I'd call that really really bad fucking luck.

I don't know if we pissed off someone somewhere...hey Landon, read the papers lately? Like in the last five years? Even once? The world hates us, hates you, and despite your overblown 5th in the world ranking they are glad to see you suck balls & be exposed as the diaper wearing shit-smeared excuse-waving loser you are.

There. I feel better already. Nothing like turning on your own. Like eating your children or something.

"How much for the baby?"

Friday June 23
Stealing bandwidth here in downtown Hamburg. Somebody on Spitalerstrasse bought a wireless router but doesn't know how to turn on the security. And for that I thank him/her...

Did I say stealing? I meant borrowing.

Doped up with back pain meds I asked the stewards where is my seat, they point me in the general direction and slowly the realization sinks in that my very excellent Category 1 seat is right smack in the middle of that sea of red otherwise known to civilization as Every Fan of the Czech Republic Remaining in Germany.

Of course I'm wearing a blue Italia pseudo-replica, god bless me. Fortunately all the Czechs spent the day drinking and they just pointed and laughed as I squeezed by to my seat. And as the game went on they seemed to assume a fatalist approach to the game. They didn't rant & rave or scream at the ref or curse the Italians (except Totti when he took corners right below us.) They just took it, chanting and cheering regardless of the obvious outcome, then applauded their men off the field, Nedved last, pausing one last time to take in the crowd, the sounds, the atmosphere. He kneeled, crossed himself, then disappeared down the tunnel, never to emerge for the Czech Republic again, an era passed. Full time called on a great career.

And both times Italy scored I just had to sit there and celebrate on the inside. I thought it would just be rude to do otherwise.

This morning I picked up my tickets with voucher to the 2nd round and quarterfinal matchs - I'm going to Italy v. Australia in Kaiserslautern then the quarterfinal in Hamburg! The quarterfinal will be Italy/Australia v. Ukraine/Switzerland. So if all goes according to plan Gli Azurri should have the least incredibly difficult path to the finals. The Australians will be extremely hard to beat - Guus Hiddink and their "we're louder than those pussy English" supporters will make Italy work for every inch of space. But it's better than facing Brazil right away.

Tuesday June 20
I bought a ticket to Saudi Arabia v. Ukraine for €75 (plus the first twenty minutes of the match) last night. If we were to rank humans by their jobs then the bottom three, in no particular order, would be "journalists" (reporters who for no apparent reason went to college - and wear ties,) politicians - and scalpers. You could cook dinner for a year with the grease dripping from the reptilian skins of these slimy urchins (yeah, I know urchins aren't reptiles, blow me.) The wonderful thing about the transaction was that I found myself the proud owner of a complimentary ticket issued to the football federation of Togo. Just yesterday an African FIFA official was publicly shamed & sent home for selling his complimentary tickets at three times face value. I'm still not sure if his crime was simply selling them or selling them at three times face value. And if it was the latter is he in trouble for selling for too much or too little? These are the questions which stand between me and sleep each night.

Let's be honest - the team representing Saudi Arabia at these World Cup Finals are the living embodiment of one rather useful & succinct word in the English language. That word is spelled S-U-C-K. They suck. They suck balls. They suck everything you can imagine fitting in the mouth of a beast, human or otherwise. Suck suckity suck suck suck. No organization, no clue, no heart - they hardly looked like they were trying. And why is their goalkeeer covered from neck to toe? It's summer and hot outside and in. Surely it can't be modesty as his teammates, sucktastickly delicious in their green & white, show plenty of leg. My guess is he's covering his chicken legs which otherwise would stand as testament to the fact that he hasn't actually exercised one day in his oil-soaked, royal family sucking-up-to life.

These guys are impostors of whose countrymen (and women, if they have any, I have no evidence that any actually exist) should be ashamed. I know that sentence sounds totally wrong but I can't think of where the preposition should go. Poorly placed prepositions are something up with which I should not put.'s obvious what's wrong with Arabian football (the Saudi part is simply homage to the stuck-in-the-15th-century cretins whose ever-expanding & apparently in-breeding royal family rule the kingdom) which is that the players are fat, spoiled and unchallenged in their homeland while effectively prohibited from playing abroad. They are allowed to play abroad, but the restrictions placed upon them, not to mention the jail time awaiting should they be spied drinking, gasp, alcohol or throwing covetous glances toward western, skin-showing women mean few dare. And it shows.

Boy does it show. They suck so badly. Actually they suck quite well. They suck fantastically well. It's the actual playing which they do badly. And unfortunately for me that is the abiding memory I carry from this match rather than Sergiy Rebrov's long-range rocket or Andriy Shevchenko's first, joyously-celebrated goal in a World Cup Finals. So thank you very much stupid useless suckliciously suckulent ball-sucking Saudis. You ruined my night with your pathetic & petulant middle-fingering to the spirit of competition at this great spectacle of sport. You should be shown red by FIFA & sent home, subito, sofort, immediately. Then extraordinarily rendered to some far off desert country where the interrogators are free to pretend the idea of human rights is an ideal still waiting to be discovered. What's that? Oh. Never mind.

Monday June 19
WARNING: I'm grumpy, lacking sleep and generally the most pissed off happy person in Germany. Like love/hate there's a fine line for me between pissed off/happy. I swing wildly back & forth all day every day here. Love the Germans but jesus would it kill them to smile? Love the games but goddammit why are the Americans so obnoxious? Love the embrace of technology but dammit why is everything in German? Oh. Anyhoo, take it for what it's worth - rants by an unemployed snob with nothing better to do than wander halfway around the world to the greatest sporting spectacle on earth and then complain about it...

I took a train from Hamburg to Kaiserslautern & then Kaiserslautern to Hamburg all in the space of 21 hours. Thirteen of those hours were spent on a train, two I spent at the Italy v United States match and the rest negotiating through the worst-organized host town of this tournament. Which pains me to say as I love Kaiserslautern the team. My love for the town, though, is greatly diminished.

We were herded in what seemed like a figure-eight designed to sap all our reserves of strength around and around the stadium before finally being allowed entrance. Then up and up and up and up endless flights of stairs. The newly-refurbished arena, no longer qualified to be called a stadium so generic in design has it become, is pleasant enough with the spectators close to the pitch. So no argument there. But the arguments began again when the match ended as clearly no planning had gone into fans' egress, but rather only into protecting the homes immediately surrounding the area. Locals chased away any stray visitors with thoughts of relieving themselves on their property while soldiers/police stood guard as we filed sardine-like into the smallest throughways they could possibly construct w/o actually endangering our lives. It took 45 minutes to get 100 yards from the stadium and then we were only deposited onto the crowded street fronting the train station where hordes of folks who had checked bags waited over 2 hours to get back their belongings.

And wonder of wonders it appears no one told Deutsche Bahn that the town was hosting a World Cup Finals match that evening. The regular train schedule was not altered at all. So the two-hour train to Frankfurt was packed, this time to a life-endangering degree, with all holes filled with hard bodies - every crevasse, all floor space, the areas meant to be open which host the connections between cars. Only the WCs were not filled with people, showing that some of us still retained some memory of civilization as it exists outside southwestern Germany. A small riot was averted in the train station only after the increasingly frightened police decided to allow the train to be overpacked rather than try to imprison anxious travelers downstairs in the station for four hours until the next train arrived. This was a nightmare relieved only by arrival in Frankfurt as the most annoying, chauvinistic, ignorant & unsophisticated supporters in the world (USA) finally left the rest of us to enjoy our long journeys north in peace.

I won't be going to Nürnberg for the USA v. Ghana match. I can't take another 90 minutes surrounded by these ignorant, blindly patriotic, dimwitted products of the American public education system. Every "song" or cheer consists solely of some cliched borrowing of an annoying-to-begin-with tune they heard while watching what they believe is the only league that exists outside MLS (England Premier League) with the grunts U-S-A tacked on as if it were the charge yelled before murdering more civilians in some far off country in the name of the "war on terror."

I've always been baffled by the idea of pride in one's place of origin, seeing how it's all a product of some bizarre cosmic accident (birth) and to see this pride taken to such absurd extremes by fat, spoiled upper-middle class ignorant chauvinists who can't be bothered to learn two words of German turns my stomach. Nice to see they've all learned from Homer Simpson that if the locals don't understand your poorly formed English sentences the best option is to repeat & raise the volume, ad nauseum if necessary. Then walk away & laugh with your friends about how stupid the Germans are. Much like Christians & Christianity, the traveling American supporters make it hard to want the American team to succeed. I'll enjoy Italy v. Czech Republic from here in Hamburg & leave the Americans to wander through Nürnberg, no doubt completely unaware of the history surrounding the area in which the stadium sits.

Pissed off & having a horrible time in Germany? Not at all. Just pissed off at the Americans and that Italy blew a great chance to qualify early. I thought once I got here I'd get in the spirit and feel gung-ho about the American team's chances. But I've got too much televised Serie A  in my blood now and found myself fervently hoping for an Italian victory. Combine that with my retro-leftist politics and, well, see above. I'm off to look for tickets to Czechs v. Italy and Saudi Arabia v. Ukraine.

Tuesday June 13
Germany hosts the World Cup Finals. I am there. You are not. Which is why you're looking at these. Or else you're a friend & want to take a look, like at a particularly horrific car crash, or a large insect overrun by ants. If that doesn't make sense maybe it's because I spent last night on a train and the night before on a plane. Before that in a boat, previous to that in moat.

I just flew in Monday morning and boy are my arms tired. Five thousand miles of flying also accounts for this singularly inimaginative (like the US team in attack) design. And lack of transition between paragraphs. And lack of a satisfying ending to this home page explanation.

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