Back in Time Again. Again.

…Or how to disguise journalism as time travel as the News of the World goes through a very public and deserved death after damaging the reputation of the art…

Join me on a trip back to exactly a year ago, when Newcastle were league champions (albeit Second Division – I am still using old terms to describe the divisions after a private trip in the time machine to 1967 to witness the birth of Philippe Albert in person), the news of the World was still mildly respected and Germany were about to play Spain in the World Cup Semi-Final.

Join me as I take you back to Berlin, July 7 2010.

Please note, no telephones were bugged in the making of this column (either the original or this ‘refreshed’ version). However many Germans were distressed.


There is an interesting phenomenon in German football: Paul the Octopus. In the past weeks I have been re-assured at both work and football that Germany would win their games – not because of their devastating counter-attacking ability, or their team ethic, but because an English octopus at the Sealife Centre in Oberhausen has picked his food from a box with the German flag on it. The fact that Paul picked Spain in the run up to today’s game thankfully diminished the confidence of my colleagues, making them a lot more bearable than they have been for the majority of this tournament. This was, however, the same Octopus that said Germany would beat Spain in the final of Euro 2008 (they didn’t). I assume that he’s spent the past two years he must have immersed himself in football history, perhaps reading ‘Inverting the Pyramid‘ to gain a better appreciation of tactics, as this year he’s running a 100% success rate. Funny that it can have such an effect on the normally robust German national confidence. At the end of the day, it’s a frigging Octopus. Anyway…

As today’s game was a late one, and the venue I’d chosen was only a few stops away from work, there was no chance of me being late for this game (as those who read this meandering stream of consciousness at the weekend will know has happened before). If I had thought that the German fans would be a bit muted after Paul gave Spain a free pass to the final, I was sadly mistaken as I got off the Ubahn to be greeted by a cacophony of drunken singing and vuvuzelas. The inside of the station seemed to be full of idiots dressed in Germany tops and wielding flags, and they all seemed to be reasonably confident. Thankfully, I wasn’t going to the Fan Mile for this game…

Located just off the famous Friedrichstrasse (or Arne-Friedrichstrasse, as someone changed one of the street signs to after his first ever goal for Germany on Saturday), the Admiralspalast was opened in 1910. It was originally an entertainment complex (kinda like Whitley Bay Ice Rink, but on a much bigger scale), and became a famous theatre in the decadent Berlin of the 1920s. We arrived there 90 mins before kick-off, having no idea what time it opened. The outside viewing area was open, but, as I’m getting old and wanted to fully benefit from the theatre ‘experience’ (wey, I wouldn’t go for the theatre!), and not because I’m an ‘old’ 25 (26 (27 now)), we waited to get into the theatre. We spent half an hour waiting by a staircase, indulging in a favourite German pastime – standing still, in front of other people, staring at others.

Anyway, we managed to get onto the balcony (thinking it was the only place with seats), and got a canny place to sit near the screen (though wedged in a corner, making beer runs impractical unless you vaulted over the side of a partition, which I only attempted once. Successfully, I might add. I am a fit 25 (26)). For those who like a bit culture, there was a huge chandelier on the ceiling. For those who don’t, they only turned it on during the game – when the other lights were dimmed – so no one paid it any heed anyway. They’d actually set up tables and chairs in the downstairs part, giving the whole thing a kind-of relaxed atmosphere.

To counter-balance Paul the octopus, Jogi Loew was once again clad in his €199 “baby blue cashmere jumper” (quote from Bild online – English version). Seemingly his Assistant Hansi Flick – the dude who dresses like Loew’s clone – “forced” him to wear it for the knockout rounds, as they’d won the two games he’d worn it during in the knockout rounds. They do make strange pair, that’s all I’m saying…

Sheeeearer! On Jorman telly! Today! Last year.

There were about 1,000 people watching at the Admiralspalast (indoors at least), including about six Spaniards and four Koreans. They were treated to Alan Shearer’s opinions on the German team (after the England game, I assume), before the lights dimmed and the anthems started. The crowd had been loud during the anthems, especially during the Spanish one – although not in a good way – before settling into an almost nervous silence after Villa’s chance in the first five minutes, lasting until about half-time.

The team actually played reasonably well during the first half, but it was clear that Spain were the much more dangerous team. The German fans took advantage of half time to regroup from the shock of seeing Spain play football somewhat approaching their majestic best for the first time in this tournament – at least that’s why I assume the queue at the bar was so long…

The crowd were actually reasonably quiet during the match as a whole, which is probably due to the majority of those being there were probably over 30, although there were a also a lot of annoying school girls, who were obviously not allowed to go to the Fan Mile. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. On the hour mark, however, panic set in on a great, and incredibly audible, level. Spain had three chances within a minute, and everyone present knew that Germany should have been behind by now. A graphic on the screen came on to announce that Germany had had two shots on goal. Spain had had 11. The introduction of Kroos seemed to give the fans a lot of hope (although I did think Trochowski was playing well), and he was immediately involved in the game, always looking lively. Unfortunately, and I’ll admit I was supporting Germany again, he placed his shot gently into Casilla’s grateful arms when presented  with a clear chance. The crowd really picked up in the wake of this miss, singing constantly – albeit the same two songs on repeat – and Germany were in the ascendancy.

Until Spain scored.

A hush broke over the audience. Except for the idiot schoolgirls, who seemed to be singing just to make noise. As soon as Gomez was brought on, it was obvious that Germany were screwed. He’s like Heskey without the good points. How Spain didn’t get a second is beyond me, and I think everyone realised at the end that Germany had been outplayed. Bettered, but not embarrassed.

As I got the Sbahn back, a group of young Germans stood next to us. One of the lads made a big show of rubbing the painted German flag from his cheek, before explaining to his mates who he would be supporting in the final. They can be a cold, emotionless lot, these Germans…

About Neil

28 years old. Geordie. Lived in Berlin almost three years. All-round canny lad.
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