Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Fan Fest, Berlin

Brasilia Mi Amor
Near Brandenberg Gate, Berlin, Germany

We are situated on a long stretch of road between Grosser Stern and the Brandenberg gate. It is filled with people, video screens, random games and activities, and beer stands. The Germans - they know a thing or two about temporary beer kiosks. The game is Brazil vs. Japan, with the crowd here being overwhelmingly in favor of Brazil.

Fans wear their national colors with price and vengeance. I talk to many sets of childhood buddies on a pilgramage to the football holy land. Their love of the game and the friends who are here with them is balanced by their gleeful hatred of opposing teams. The Brazilians want to see the Argentinians pummelled to a bloody pulp. The Scots wish terrible things upon the English, and so on. Nothing like mixing sports with centuries-old political and religious grudges.

After home country and ancestry, people's reasons for supporting certain teams gets a bit squishy. One person like Ghana's shirts. Another selects based on hair styles, and more than one gal roots for Sweden because #3 is an underwear model for Calvin Klein.

Once the game is underway, fans are riveted. This is not just a game--none of them are. National pride is at stake here. Besides, hell if Japan is going to beat Brazil at their own game. When Japan scores, the crowd goes mild.

At halftime a fresh-faced spokesperson tries to keep the crowd engaged by hosting games and introducing cheerleaders. This peters out when we have to watch seven minutes of FIFA-mandated commercials, but of course the crowd revs back up for the exciting, if not predicatble, Brazilian win. Bets are collected on, horns blare, and the crowd stumbles out through the Brandenberg gates to start the whole process over tomorrow.

Fanalyst Rating:

Fashion ****
Scene ***
Band:Audience Rapport - n/a
Audience Focus: ****


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