Sunday, June 11, 2006


T & T, We want a goal,
T & T, We want a goal,

T & T, We want a goal,
T & T, We want a goal.

People from the Caribbean know about the space between the music. No blustering epic choruses, or verses describing historical woes and vowing sporting vengeance. Simple but effective, the chant that the Trinidadians (or is it Toboggans?) sang as their team of players from clubs like Wrexham and Port Vale earned a scoreless draw against Sweden was in keeping with the way in which the result was achieved. Hard work, intelligent use of possession and flawless organisation reflected well on the grizzled Dutchman Leo Beenhakker's management.

Flawless organisation then. Well it is Germany after all. Here's the bit about how wonderful the train system is and how everything is just so and nothing is left to chance. That's all true and this is a magnificent place to have a shindig like a World Cup Finals. But don't get the impression that it is some sort of coldly functional, glorified business conference. This is a spectacularly huge party, and the venue stretches the breadth of a nation.

Düselldorf, base camp for we merry Weltmeisterschaftpunters, is not a host city, and as such would be expected to feel like the proverbial kitchen of the aforementioned party. Still, arriving on Friday, and despite undertaking a profoundly dull city tour (in which we learned that Düsseldorf calls itself the "office desk of Germany" due to the proliferation of grey functionaries therein) we find that the city is in agreeable and downright jaunty form, serving as a holding zone for a menagerie of fans from various competing countries, and in our case, non-competing ones.

It turns out that the presence of Trinidad and Tobago in the tournament acts as a sort of multi-national invitation to supporters of minnows like Falkirk and St.Johnstone as well Wrexham and Port Vale to join in with things, and it is on Friday night in Düsseldorf that I first hear, from a band of intrepid Wrexham supporters, the immortal chant:

Na na na naaa, Na na na naaa, Hey hey hey, Dennis Lawrence.

It is, as you can undoubtedly gather, a plaintive paean to the Welsh club's centre-half who lined out so heroically yesterday for T & T in the erstwhile Westfalenstadion (all the stadiums have been renamed FIFA World Cup Stadium for the duration of the tournament, a typically preposterous and unnecessary branding exercise by FIFA, particularly in the case of the majestic home of Borussia Dortmund, which although denuded of its legendary Sudtribune terrace, is still volcanic in its atmosphere and big-occasion vibe).

If Düsseldorf was a lively introduction, the reality of a game-day host city is overwhelming. Upon leaving Dortmund Hauptbahnhof, the heat of a June afternoon is fused with a cacophonous melange of sounds and the visual spectacular of a robust looking German city overrun with supporters and a staggering carnival feel. Doubtless this is fuelled by the presence of the T & T contingent, the fact of whose inferior numbers to their Swedish opponents is rendered irrelevant by the natural celebratory nature they bring.

Calypso music plays on a stage near the Hauptbahnhof, which is but a gateway to innumerable squares and platzen in which the mood tends only more and more towards gaiety. It was decided amongst our party to wear Ireland shirts and, ahem, silly hats, on game-days. I baulked initially at this policy, believing that we would be irritating gatecrashers at someone else's party, but the enduring positivity towards the Irish means we spend the day in a succession of exchanges with good natured Germans, Swedes, Poles, T & T fans, Americans, Scots etc., all conducted through the intermediary of various degreess of inebriation.

The ubiquitous slogan "A Time to Make Friends" stirred up within me initial and predictable waves of cynicism toward FIFA, and their desire to market and brand even the concept of drunken exchanges with strangers. But maybe its just the Irish jerseys, or maybe its the tasty Altbier, but there isn't a bad word or an unhappy face anywhere, and that can't be a bad thing.

That is until one of our party had his wallet robbed on the train to the stadium. Ah well, where were we? That's right:

T & T, We want a goal,
T & T, We want a goal,

T & T, We want a goal,
T & T, We want a goal.....


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