Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Socceroo for a Day
Last night I went to the Italy vs Australia match in Kaiserslautern. My initial plan was to sell my ticket, as the Kaiserslautern stadium brought back the bad memories of the USA vs Italy game. Plus the stadium simply sucks, one thing the Americans can teach the Germans is about stadium design and how to get people in and out efficiently and quickly. For a country that loves to talk about its great train system, supersafe autobahn, the fact is only 1 stadium of the 3 I have been to so far has been efficient, and that was in Nuremberg. The Kaiserslautern stadium is built on top of a mountain, no seriously. You have to HIKE up about 250 stairs, about a 2km long hike, probably honestly 500meters above the street level. Then for the World Cup they have seperated things into 4 colors(yellow, red, green,blue) they say to help with crowd control, but honestly its made a mess of the whole getting in and out. I have been to many sports events in the USA, and never would it take over an hour to clear out 46,000 people from a stadium. All the complaining we might do at Yankee Stadium at the end of a game, and the narrow aisles coming down from the Upper Deck is NOTHING compared to a german soccer stadium. I would not want to think what would happen if a stampede, or riot broke out after the game, everyone would die on top of the mountain..
Anyway I digress about stadium design. The market for tickets outside games can be soft or good, yesterday it was soft, and i'm not a professional at reselling tickets, most of the time I get burnt. Anyway I was not going to give up my tickets for a measly 150euros, or sell to a professional scalper, who would then turn and make a buck. I tried to find an Aussie fan who needed a ticket, but after a few hours I was like lemme just goto the game, World Cup is only every 4 years. I am very glad I went, I knew I was going to be in the Aussie section, and I even placed a small 6 Euro bet on Aussie winning, and the socre being 2-1, would have paid a nice 100 Euros, good drinking money, but as you know that didnt happen.
The Aussie section was awesome. plain and simple, people brought in blow up Kangeroos, Sharks, everyone was dressed in Green and Gold, I tried to find an aussie jersey in town, and all I could find was a simple yellow/gold t-shirt for 5 Euros, but at least I felt I fit in colorwise. The National Anthem was a sight to be held, everyone aussie sang and sang out loud, the pride was just amazing. By far the loudest anthem i've ever heard, previously it was O Canada, at a 2004 World Cup of HOckey game in Montreal, Canada vs Slovakia, and i must say since I know a few words of O! Canada i joined in. Sadly I didnt know any of the Aussie anthem so I just shot a video of them singing, I will try to post, but with slow internet access over here, pictures are tough enough, videos take forever.
Anyway, the game. Aussie played well, very well, Italy had more pure goal scoring chances with Luci Toni, having at least 3-4 good attempts in the first half. Yet Aussie dominated the ball control. In the 2nd half, another dirty Italian was sent off with a straight red card in the 50th minute. So now 1 man down, I figured Aussie would take it to Italy, they did, but just simply couldnt finish. They had lots of balls in the box, but instead of shooting, made bad passes, towards the end of the 2nd half a few good free kick/corner chances with a header going just high. Still the Aussie fans were cheering, chanting, including my favorite chant "Your Blue, Your White, Your going home tonight!!!" towards the italians and their uniforms.
The Ref sucked, plain and simple. Its a shame that the story of this World Cup so far has been the Refs, like the NFL these refs are not professional refs, and have other jobs ranging from airline pilots, to tire salesmen, to water engineers. Its a shame the the biggest sporting event in the world, doesnt use full time professional Refs. While the NFL has a good accountability system for their Refs, reviewing basically every play after the game, FIFA has nothing of the like. It seems like once you are elected a Ref to the World Cup, nothing can change, you cant be fired mid tournament. The President of FIFA even critized, in fact CALLED OUT, the ref from the Portugal vs Netherlands game, yet the Russian will probably get another assignment in the tournament for all I know..
You simply cannot call a Penalty shot with 12 seconds left in injury time. Can't be done, unless its totally BLATENT, like a man going in on a break away and being tackled, pulled down, punched in the head.. But for a questionable play like an Italian tripped over an already downed aussie, calling a penalty to decide the game is just simply WRONG, SICKENING, i cant think of the words to describe it. Other than its clear you can buy a Ref and fix as game in the Italian League, I guess the reach of La Costra Nosta reaches FIFA and the World Cup. I doubt that Spanish ref will be taking a vacation to Australia anytime soon.
The loss was shocked, the Aussie fans sat in the stands for 30 minutes stunned. I was shocked, it took an hour for the steps to the stadium to clear out, and even then it was crowded getting down the mountain to town. Yet in town, at night the party was alive, I had never seen such a small town, Kaiserslautern i think has a population of 40,000 at most, fill up with people. There was easily 3-4 times as many people in the streets of the town then were at the game, in fact I met some Aussies who traveled 15hrs from Cardiff, Wales to get to K-town in time just to watch the game on the big screen in town.. I wanted to party all night, but had a 1hr train ride back to the place I'm staying and felt terrible about waking up the sleeping girl who needs to work today as I didnt have keys.
I was going to travel to Austria today, but I'm dead tired, so I'll rest up here in Mannheim, and then attempt a 5hr train ride followed by a 8hr ride up to Hamburg where I have a ticket for the Friday game of Italy vs Ukraine, but already have ZERO desire to goto that game, and will either sell at face or simply eat the ticket and watch the game in main town center where the party is really at..