June 08, 2006


Its less than a day till the begin of the proceedings. But the football crazy nation just can't wait. Yesterday a local news paper had a headline in giant fonts "Did you buy chips? Have you enough beer at home? Remember, only two days left." The countdown has began long ago.

picture from Der Spiegel Yesterday Berlin staged a big party celebrating the opening of world cup festivities at the Brandenburg Gate. Over 200,000 fans gathered to celebrate the concerts from afternoon onwards and laser light shows at night. There were concerts featuring Nelly Furtado and Simple Minds amongst other prominent artists and an appearance by the Brazilian living football legend Pele. The fans also cherished documentaries about the history of world cup and the winning moments of Germany in the huge screens. The show was telecast live. The road from Brandenburger Gate upto the Grosser Stern (Strasse des 17. Juni) have been developed into a funfair with more than 10 giant screens. The roadsides are infested with food and souvenir shops and there are also many entertainment opportunities.

The atmosphere of the fest is very vibrant. As I was walking through the fanfest road today, I was amazed to see the crowd cheering the odd Ghana supporters passed by me. The place is well secured by physical checkup in the entry point. Most interesting thing is that in all the places people spoke English seeing that I am a foreigner. A couple of times I was cheered by the passers by as a Indianer (I didn't have the chance to correct the mistake).

All of the 12 host cities are all staging Fan Fest programs everyday showing World Cup games on giant screens and providing other entertainment for those who could not get a ticket for the matches. Notably the entrance is free for all in these places. I have also seen two other interesting places, one is the ADIDAS arena besides the German Parliament & another, the ZDF arena inside the Sony Center in the Potsdamer Platz. The Adidas arena is a replica of the Berlin olympic stadium (where the final would be played) and consists of four giant screens in the middle and 10000 seats for the viewers. People who have got no World cup match ticket can buy relatively less cost ticket here and get the vibe of a real stadium packed with 10000 fans.

Many pubs are advertising that they will show the match live on TV and side-by-side the menus for the guests. In tourist spots like the Europa center, makeshift multiple bear pubs have been set up with stages for live concerts. Suddenly there is more rush in the public transports and the bus and U-bahn in major areas are packed with people. Football fans are arriving and you can tell it by the looks of them, wearing sports T-shirts, blabbering every language in the world and sometimes carrying a map.

The last minute touchups are being done. Shops in major areas of Berlin city have been decorated on festive look. The construction sites are being covered with wooden partition with colorful posters as if hiding the scars.

Soccer teams have mostly arrived and some of them faced a chilled greeting as this year’s temperatures have been some of the coldest ever recorded in Germany. But they don’t need to worry, the weather is getting better. The Germans are disappointed that Michael Ballack, the captain is not playing in the opening game. Pele, Maradona and Claudia Schiffer will formally open the World Cup. Singer ToniBraxton combining with pop opera quartet Il Divo will sing the official tournament song, "The Time of Our Lives" in the opening ceremony tomorrow.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the world, the football fever is spreading. In Bangladesh, if you look upwards in the rooftops, you will be confused where you are. Because flags of the world cup playing countries, specially the Latin Americans are flying high.

The footballs to be used in the World Cup are made in Pakistan.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov appealed to the country's business leaders to let employees watch World Cup football matches.

Serbia and Montenegro will play as one team for the last time in this year’s World Cup.

More world cup links:

* The Football connoisseur's Guide.

* 10 ugliest World Cup footballers.

* The Germany survival guide for the world cup tourists.


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