German fans feverish as World Cup final becomes nailbiter

Nov 30, -0001

BERLIN: More than 200,000 Germany fans thronged in central Berlin for the World Cup final Sunday, turning an avenue behind the Brandenburg Gate into a sea of black, red and gold flags.

The city closed the so-called Fan Mile to traffic at the landmark symbol of national unity to make way for supporters cheering on the German side in its showdown against Argentina.

Crowds surpassed the 200,000 maximum capacity hours before the match, an event spokeswoman said.

Braving intermittent showers, vendors did a booming trade in currywurst, a local speciality of sausage smothered in spicy ketchup, and plastic cups of beer.

Germans who have waited since 1990 for the Mannschaft to bring home a fourth World Cup title said they believed this was their year.

Normally a rare sight due to the country's dark history, German flags fluttered from street lamps, honking cars snaking through city streets and supporters' shoulders, worn like superhero capes.

Revellers young and old, male and female donned mohawk wigs, bunny ears and cowboy hats in the national colours, chanting "Deutschland, oh-ho".

A group of disabled fans in wheelchairs sang their hearts out as they made their way through the masses.

"I bet Germany will win 1-0," said Eda Sobota, 70, with a Hawaiian-style garland of plastic flowers in the German colours hanging from her neck.

"I'm from East Germany and have supported the all-German team since reunification" in 1990, she said.

But at half-time with the match tied at 0-0 after a nerve-jangling series of near-misses for each side, some fans started to lose their swagger.

"The Germans aren't playing well -- Argentina is better," said 18-year-old Tom Ulmann, tiny German flags painted on his cheeks.

"If it continues like this we're going to lose."

Germany had led Brazil 5-0 at the same point in the semi-final match last Tuesday, which they went on to win by a jaw-dropping 7-1.

- First since reunification -

Ralf Schulte, a 48-year-old who drove his family to the capital from Bremen in northern Germany, said he had not lost faith despite the nailbiter.

"The Argentines are dangerous -- it's going to be tough because they have a good defence," he said. "But I still think it's going to be 2-1 for Germany.

Stefan Winkler, a German who works for a bank in London, was also bullish as he sipped a beer under one of several giant screens where the match was broadcast.

"I say it will be 3-2 for Germany," the 34-year-old said.

"If we win it will be something special -- the first time for Germany since reunification," recalling West Germany's victory over Argentina just months before the country overcame its Cold War division.

Valentin Papp, wearing an Argentina jersey, cut a lonely figure in an eastern district of Berlin as he waited for a few friends to watch the match at the Cultural Brewery, a former beer factory turned events centre.

"I have exams this week but I couldn't concentrate on anything but football," said the 24-year-old Argentine law student.

Papp had been at the Fan Mile earlier in the day.

"A lot of German people said things about my jersey but they were respectful. That could change later when people start drinking."

Thirteen-year-old friends Antonia Siedentop and Gina Ibsch made the trip to the capital with their parents from their village in the Harz mountains in the centre of the country.

"We just had to be here to support the team," Siedentop said, quivering with excitement. (AFP)








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