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Fear and loathing in Germany: a World Cup diary

June 11: Cologne, Germany

24 consecutive hours of abusive alcoholism, hashish, dancing the samba in the streets with thousands of Brazilians and Englishman ‘til dawn, partying by the water (Cologne sits along the Rhine River), getting picked up by every young German girl in sight (I know we’re still in high school, but I’ve never kissed a brown buffalo before. And neither have my friends. Oh really now?), running into the 1,000 year old cathedral that is the center of town to pray for our wilting souls, getting interviewed by the local press, battling 100 degree heat and humidity and no air conditioning while sharing a room with 4 others; transitory, people come and go throughout our stay, we being the only residents, and the train station around the corner.

5am-6am hear the lone, longing whistles popping off; can hear the echoes, the ghostly voice of a female conductor announcing the arrivals & departures and I wished every night I could be on one of those trains moving further and further away…

Tomorrow the first match.

June 12, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

USA v. Czech Republic: 1 hour train from Cologne.

A debacle on every level. Getting our asses kicked in front of the world 3-0 was the icing on the cake to an otherwise fucked afternoon. The city of Gelsenkirchen woke up one day, apparently, and realized they had to host a world cup match.

The street festival in front of the train station is hot, raucous, people drunk, happy as hell, anticipation of things to come. We went all the way to the semi-finals in Korea ‘02, we expected the same here.

Time to go after two hours of drinking. Below, metros with only two cars! Thousands descending into the tunnels, there are no signs, no guards, no directions. Instead of trains with 10-12 cars allowing hundreds to board for the stadium 15 miles away, at most 40 are getting on each time. Screams, pounding of walls, cursing, blistering heat, humidity, crying, children freaking, drunks hollering, chanting, growling, can’t breathe, elbows in throats, knees in crotches, pressing together, sandwiching, no air, no air, let’s go people, move it! The match is in two hours. Fuck this shit! Joey and I look at each other “THE BUSES!”

We bulldoze back up the stairs; kicking, shoving aside drunks coming down who haven’t seen how bad it is yet, then, gallop to the city buses across the street. Hundreds follow.

Fucking Germans!

There are no stadium shuttles; we have to cram into local city transport with Aunt Gertrude and other locals doing their daily routine, standing room only. Can’t breathe! Swimming in burning sweat. No AC. Windows bolted. Immediate traffic stadium bound. Burning up! Stop at every corner picking up passengers. Driver doesn’t give a fuck, being crushed to death. 35 minutes of this. Feeling weak, faint. Stadium miles away. Fans on foot moving faster outside along bus. No lane-specific route. Assholes! They’re supposed to be good at this shit! Who dropped the motherfuckin’ ball?

Joey & I look at each other “FUCK THIS!”

At next stop all the Americans in the bus fall against the doors, a human battering ram, the driver starts screaming, we push harder, and literally fall out, me landing on the sidewalk, flopping onto my considerable beer belly. Joey picks up and starts running. Others follow. I saunter far behind. No strength left. Hobble through woods, across train trestles, over a river, grand boulevards. Not one single fucking official to guide us. Hundreds of Americans, scattered, rudderless, left to fend for themselves, the locals probably hoping we say “fuck it” and turn back, but, true to our stubborn nature, and the only aspect I am proud of that makes me an American, we push forward, don’t give up. No surrender! Hold the line, son! Hold the motherfuckin’ line.

We make the match by kick-off.  By minute 5 we’re down 1-0. In football that’s bad. The U.S supporters are immediately deflated. By half time the lead has doubled. The Czechs are just too fucking big, strong, organized and scary. Damn…

To be continued…

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