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Deutschland 2006-The Socceroos Destiny

Tigger Tales

I sit riverside in Aschaffenburg, Germany a superb setting to open a notepad and recount the events of the last 17 days.

Setting foot in Germany on 11th June I arrived at Frankfurt Airport for the greatest and arguably most important sporting event in the world. I had not been out of the UK for 4 months, a ridicuosly lengthy period in comparison to my travels of last year.

I knew I was embarking on something special, those around told me so. And for the second time in as many years, like the roadtrip in 2005, I had the rare pleasure of random people been visibly excited for me. To say they were jealous is an understatement.

Coincidence led to my cousin Brendan boarding the same flight to Germany and the same Fanatics tour. Within 10 minutes we had a Pilsner in hand and were been interviewed by the biggest TV station in Germany. Meatball thrives in the limelight and claims the Socceroos are going all the way to Berlin. He also claimed his name was Harry Kewell, something I am sure he wouldn’t get away with these days. Nor would we ever again get mistaken for Brazillians. To be honest ‘The Ball of Meat’ seized every opportunity to get his eclipse (head) on TV and hats off to the boy, he was successful in his mission.

Our campsite in Bad Durkheim, half way between Frankfurt and Kaiserslautern, was poor on location but ideal in the way of facilities. Our tent was lakeside, the site had a bar, kiosk, outdoor marquee with a big screen and vitally a barbecue that seemed to serve Bratwursts 24/7.

On that first Sunday, the night before the Japan game, we watched the games of that day, drank, and tucked into my first share of fleish (meat). By tours end it would be a quantity that made up for my time in England on only pasta. By midnight the die hard Soccerooo fans and those that find a pool of craic and dive into it, otherwise known as ‘those having a crack’, were in voice. Standing on chairs, tables and anything else in the vicinity chants of ‘Super Tim’, ‘Stand up for the Socceroos’, ‘I’d rather be a convict then a Pom’, ‘Posh Spice is a slapper’, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘We are One’ were sung in gusto by the hundred or so that hadn’t retreated to their tent. It was raucous but in comparison to what laid ahead these were the tentative begginings of a vocal chord demanding campaign that saw the Socceroo players and its fans redefine pride.

This tour so demanding on the body, would have been a whole lot tougher if not for the preservative free German beer. I honour your purity laws Deutschland. Game Day Monday would have been greeted by many with a sore head and dreary eyes coupled with a craving for greasy food. Instead, what would become possibly the greatest day of my life to date; it was greeted with minimal fatigue and whole lot of anticipation.

I expect every Australian to know the game and the result and most of you would have seen footage from the town centre, namingly out the front of Burger King. Neither footage nor my description of the build up and consequent post match celebrations of our come from behind, 3 goals in 10 minutes, stunning victory over Nippon can do this 24 hours justice. What it felt like to be an Australian in Kaiserslautern that day; only those there know the feeling.

When I first swept around the cobbled path and caught sight of the town square early Monday morning my heart, like a toddler spotting a ball pen, immediately pounded with excitement. I had never seen a more unified congregation of supporters in my life. I feel like crying in happiness as I write about it now.

Never have I been so proud to be an Aussie. The heart our players showed, the significance of our first win and goals in a world cup were sideshows to the pride and passion our fans showed in acting themselves, as Australians. We were all draped in Aussie flags, had Aussie gold on our backs and over our hearts, and we sung the nations classics from morning to the wee hours Tuesday. For one day Kaiserslautern and its 100,000 inhabitants felt ours.

There is something magical in creating a slice of Australia on this scale in a place that was so far from home, yet somehow so close. All 7000 Aussies in K Town (as it is affectionately known) that day made sure the world knew we Australians and more importantly what it meant to be Australian.

That leads me to a perception of our homeland held that would not have been reported back home. Common belief is that the local authorities had fears we would be like the English and contain a hooliganism streak of violence. Believe me; if we did they would have seen it after the Italy result. How wrong they were and how little time it took for them to realise it. "We weren´t sure what you would be like, because we never have you here", the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) Newsagent owner told Brendan and I. "We see you in a fortnight", he splurted with excitement in hope we qualify and come back to play.

How right he was and as you´ll discover how happy K Town was to see us. Timmy Cahill´s second goal, was so very brilliant and so very important it made me cry with joy but the way we flew our nations flag and conducted ourselves on that Monday and throughout Australians fortnight in the Cup is more significant and sparks more pleasure (if humanely possible).

For yours truley ‘I still call Australia home’ is a song that rouses feelings of pride heard through the speakers of an Ipod. That Monday night as it beamed out across the dark of night, hundreds of people jammed into the town square, Germans and people from around the world watching and joining in our celebrations, it was something different. We stood on tables, chairs, sign posts, light poles anything the square offered that could be climbed and provided a greater vantage point above the sea of gold.

Screaming that song to the heavens was spine tingling and unforgettable. I remember looking to the sky perched on a tresell table, drenched in beer, surrounded by a sea of good times and countless inflatable kangaroos hoisted skyward. I shook my head. In reflection it’s a gesture I tend to do when something is mind blowingly good. "Whoever is up there I thankyou, why do I get experience this?” Burger King´s window seal two levels high couldn’t escape the web of Australiana we spun over the city that night. Our nation’s flag, erected by an Aussie lad mooning the crowd, flew from Burger King indefinetly.

I was gazed at by more than one set of envious eyes that night, as people, presumably locals squeezed through the crowd in the streets below, certain they peered at me with a lust to be from the land Downunder, on local word we created the biggest party K town, an otherwise quiet place, had ever seen. K Towners dont feel like you have missed out, I am not sure many Aussies have seen better.

Rolling back into our campsite some day and a half after we left it for the Japan game we waltzed through the gates our tonsils vibrated to the chant of 'we are back from K town, the last men back from K town'.

And as the sun fell on Day 3 The Fanatics entered Ernest (a local German with a whizz bang keyboard and one too many microphones, or so he would have thought by the nights end) to play to an intoxicated crowd. Within half an hour of his set it was fair to say myself and ‘The Ball of Meat’ had taken over the show. The highlight has to be yours truley on Meaty’s shoulders, microphone in hand, walking through the rammed marquee singing our adapted version of Country Road, appropriately re named Socceroo road. Inevitably Slobsy introduced plonk into the equation and I made sure the rafters were still nice and stable.

The next morning The Fanatics rolled into Munich some four days out from the Brazil game. A few days to discover Munich, an extreme sports day and a day trip to a German extemination camp that I couldn´t bring myself to go on. The contrasts were too great. I had been to Auschwitz and knew the impact it had on me.

We scalped tickets for that nights match at a servo we stopped over at for lunch and upon arriving to the campsite had no time to get organised so we dumped our bags and tent and headed straight to Allianz Arena (to see two heavyweights of international football Tunisia v Saudi Arabia). Played at the brand new bubble stadium some of you may have seen. After the game we watched the Germans score in the 92nd minute to win against Poland on a big screen in one of the many beer halls in town. The hall went from having the noise level of a doctor’s surgery to the roar that reverberated around the ‘G’ when the Tigers went to town on the Dons way back in ’95 Semi Final. Needless to say it was party time and I returned to the campsite in the morning’s wee hours to find someone had flogged, sorry stolen, our tent.

Two nights into Munich and it hadn’t seen a single nights rest, but that was not to say we wouldn’t need it at some point, evryone has a breaking point. It was probably for the best I had Buckleys Chance of setting it up in my current state. With our tent gone we set up shop in the high rollers (by camping standards) marquee and saw the rest of our nights in Munich out there. With row after row of dormitary bedding it wasn’t hard to see who the night owls were and who came to Germany to sleep. By Munich Meaty and I were affectionately known as Drunk and Drunker or Muppet and Muppeteer.

Enter the Extreme Sports Day and our selection of Canyoning. I dont´t know why he offered the slide to me and with my jump the two lads behind me. Maybe he saw it in my eyes, that ‘have a go’ attitude, maybe he thought I was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I swear one of the lads behind me, standing there with a hooded wetsuit and a smile that spread his green and gold moustach the width of his face, did not even have the basket to comtemplate hosting a picnic. As I stood 15 metres closer to the heavens alongside a waterfall that dissappeared below into a swirling mass of froth, a sight usually found at the base of a Gunnamatta Beach close out I wondered if it would all end deep in the Austrian Alps just outside of the picturesque Kitzbuhel. I knew I was going to do the jump but I had to take a moment. The five or so people before me, including Bruno, had abseiled the same drop but no one had let themselves free fall to the base of the falls.

That’s what worried me initially, the height wasn’t a problem it was the context. For this was no swimming pool with masses of water and a diving board conveniently positioned, I was to slide down a two metre rock face directly to the side of a stream, melted ice from the Alps, which abruptly became a waterfall. I couldn’t see the waterfall, the rock jutted out over it, your line of vision beggining some 5 metres further out from where you would hopefully land.

The water in sight been dangerously shallow did nothing to calm the nerves. As I took that moment my mind turned to one thing and I acted accordingly, ‘I told the two lads to make sure someone worthy got my tickets to the Brazil game and focused.

For myself the laxadative attitude of the instructor helped. He was a nut. “I think you jump, go quick and push, not slow, must be quick, then you ok”. His lack of instruction in his broken English and his glazy eyes of a man excited with anticipation for his pupils gave me the confidence he believed in me. Off I plummeted emerging from the frothing white mass with a Hewitt fist punch and an adrenaline rush that had me on cloud nine for half an hour and soon after dead to the world for the four hour journey back to Munich. ‘Can canyon this kid’ became our catch cry for the free falling trio.

The Brazil game was the day the Socceroos got themselves what they had wanted all along. To be on the world stage, we had the world champions in Munich, tickets were gold dust and going at a pricey 500 yo yo´s. As soon as I walked into the stadium and got that first glance of the arena pride filled very inch of my body. I had been to the stadium before so I wasn´t in awe of the arena, despite the bubble been almightily impressive, and it was no final, but the happiness I got in knowing 11 lads from Downunder had created this for me and 20 million others was brilliant. Been privleged enough to sit 9 rows back and watch it unfold demanded the only response I know to turn to at times like this, a glance to the sky and a shake of the head.

I cannot recall an Australian goal when I ended up in the same row of seats as I started, the Socceroos for all their efforts deserved this level of celebration. It would be Harry Kewell´s equaliser against Croatia that would have to take the cake and spark delirium upon Stuttgart and consequently the Aussie Express back home (a chartered train to and from Stuttgart for The Fanatics, a bar and disco carriage in tow of course).

The tension in the stands was unbearable in Stuttgart. I have never been so nervous for such a prolonged period of time. The celebration afterwards was an all comers affair, including the Croatians, ice cream boys and policeman. Hats off to the Croats, pre match we warned to be cautious after the game for potential violence, regardless of the result. In a subtle way it went along the lines of, “stick together look out for your mates and just make sure you’re never alone”. However, for a nation where Soccer is King, the be all and end all, and minnows Australia had just knocked them out of the competition, making it even more satisfying, their conduct was commendable. They exchanged scarves, tops anything for Australian merchandise. It seemed everyone wanted in on the Aussie jaggernaut. It was a case of join the queue, because in K Town the second time around the Germans took the level you can love your second team to a new level. I take you to gameday against the Italians and one wasn’t sure whether the person sporting Aussie gold was in fact an Australian or a German. We had made an impression.

'You’re red, your white, your going home tonight!' This chant was by far the loudest us amateur soccer fans had. It reverberated around the stadium. Our adaptation of Footballs Coming Home was also a favourite. It went as follows, ‘You’re going home, your going home, your going, Croatia´s going home!’ The Croats had us outnumbered and in their deep voices they beamed across the pitching making some serious noise, "Hrvatska, Hrvatska, Hrvatska". They don’t have the reputation of been the most vocal of all nations for nothing. After Craig Moore´s penalty I think Australia finally learnt how to make noise.

This World Cup will redefine Australian crowds forever. I have always admired the English for their ability to clearly define their allegiance. Take the sea of red they create at any British Lions match or the crosses of St George draped over every inch of concrete a stadium offers when the Three Lions take the pitch. Welcome Australia to the game. A sea of gold will be far from unique from K Town (v Italy) forth.

Never have I seen so many people, post goal celebration, simultaneously bend over and peer below their seats looking for sunglasses, hats, inflatable kangaroos and anything else that happened to come adrift in the celebrations after Cahills first goal giving him the lifelong title of been Australia’s first ever goal scorer. Most wish they hadn’t, finding only arms or lenses of what where sunglasses, a neccessity in the German sun that never gave up.

German friendliness cannot go unmentioned here, specifically; you guessed it, K Town. The way in which the locals treated Australians was remarkable. The same police who feared our behaviour that opening group match wore green and gold on their cheeks. Banners and t-shirts welcomed us home on our second visit to K Town, in the days leading up to the Italy game locals initiated high fives and bear hugs as we walked the streets. One sign out the front of a pub directly opposite the Hauptbanhof read `Welcome back Socceroos, this town loves your fans´. One lady stopped before us as we sat on the astro turf of a makeshift soccer pitch in the heart of town. She put her rucksack and groceries down and handed me a peach and nectarine. She spoke little English but managed to mutter out something along the lines of "here’s your breakfast".

Moments later as Brendan and I searched for a soccer ball so we could strut our stuff, or lack of, on the pitch, we found ourselves drinking with a German family. I had approached them without hesitation in pursuit of a seat. Three beers later they refused to take our money, as they were always going to do, and we were on our way. This was what the World Cup was all about. Feel good stories echoed from all corners of the supporter group. One of the boys told me how in conversation with a policeman several cops from his squadron had filed for Monday (the day of the Italy game) off so they could party with us. Without exaggeration I fail to remember anyone who didn’t greet us with at a minimun, a smile. Never have I felt so welcome, everyone felt like friends.

In Bad Durkheim a lady gave me her bicycle so I didn´t have to walk in to town. A lady well into her 70´s offered us a bed at her place because Australia had been so good to her sons who reside there now. Bruno and I were going to take her up on the offer two weeks later until we opted for the fan site. Finally when we departed after been cheated by the Italians customers in one strip of street side cafes gave us a standing ovation. K Town would not have been standing had the English copped the same treatment we did.

And so it continues, back in K Town I found myself in a Punk Rock Club with Terry (Brendan’s mate), Slobs (Brendan), Meatball and a few others. Prior to tucking into, at an estimate, snitzel number 8 for the tour, I headed for the toilet and on doing my business realised I had company. It came in the form of a singlet wearing, piercing clad, long haired, stereotypical rock fan. He had clearly finished at the urinal and appeared to be now stalling for time. Immediately heightning my level of alertness, meaning I was know at the level of an average man, I couldn’t help but think I needed to prepare myself for an old fashioned stoush or the alternative, roll over and get everything stolen. I stepped away from the urinal, headed to the basin, and then the passage back to the bar. My toilet nemesis ensured he went out in front of me. My nerves grew, light faded the deeper into the corridor we surged. As we reached the door back out to the bar the man pulled the door open and stepped aside to let me out first. Trying to hide my surprise I said "thankyou". He replied with "It’s your Heimspiel" (Translation: It’s your home game). That’s the way the Germans made us feel, at home.

Speaking with Rolland, a friend whom has two parents born and bred in Germany, it seems the embracing attitude of the Germans towards visitors is born out of a deep desire for this country to reinvent itself. They make no secret of their history, in contrast to the past where it was not taught in schools. The Germans now just want a different memory to spring to mind than Adolf Hitler and all that goes with his name when one thinks of Deutschland. The World Cup provided the perfect medium for this to be achieved and for the Germans to at long last show some patriotism for their unified country. Waving their tri colours high in the sky has not always been a given like it has for modern day Australians. I overheard one local joke with his friend in the Hofbrahaus, "This is the biggest event in Germany since the war".

This event has been criticised for poor quality football, poor refereeing and its failure to provide the world with a new champion, scintillating striker or new team on the block. I think Japan/Korea (2002) and I think Ballacks headers, and the emergence of Senegal and Asian football as a whole. However, we are missing the point.

The World Cup is far more than a sporting tournament. With its motto ‘A time to make friends’ it provides a rare opportunity for people all over the world to interact on a mass scale each with a common love. It is living proof people from all walks of life, from all of earths continents can get on. You just have to have an open mind and open arms. Love, and as a consequence fun seeped out of peoples pours at this event and the next time someone mutters Deutschland I will be inundated with happy memories, so good, so pleasing they are surreal. Germany, congratulations I speak for the millions of people whoms perception of your land are transformed forever.
Sat 07/10/2006 Andy Hamilton 741 views

5 Comments about this article

  • Andy, great write & great memories - how good was K-Town.
    My highlights:
    1. Aussie Express Train to K-Town (match 1)
    2. Samba Party in Munich.
    3. Munich pub crawl - 2,000 lunatics!
    I lost my photos though so spewing about that!

    Posted by James Ashton Mon Oct 23, 2006 07:15pm AEST
  • Hey man, That review is awesome. I been looking everywhere for books, magazines, videos any kind of coverage of us fans time on the tour and theres been nothin. Cheers heaps ay

    Posted by Chris Worthy Mon Nov 06, 2006 08:58pm AEST
  • Great Review,

    I actually remember you guys, we did the same Fanatics tour and then after it finished i think we stayed in the fanfest campground with you guys in K Town for the Italy match. I think it was one of your mates who got taken to hospital but still made the train that day in Ohreigan wasnt it? Thank god you two were there otherwise me and my mates would have been called drunk and drunker... Oh and i have some great photos and videos of you guys sliding around in the aussie express!

    Posted by Peter Robinson Thu Nov 30, 2006 06:16pm AEST
  • AC MILAN V LIVERPOOL @ IMAX SYDNEY-THURSDAY 24 May 4am.$28. sms your email address to 0402 995110 you will be sent link to hosting limited.

    Posted by George Kokalevski Mon May 21, 2007 07:04pm AEST
  • What a brilliantly written piece bringing back great memories. I thought the welconing the people of Oehringen gave us was up there with the best of it- well done mate

    Posted by Shaun Donohoe Sun Jan 31, 2010 02:30pm AEST

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