Go behind the scenes with SI.com's Arash Markazi whoâs âOn The Scene,â writing a regular journal from anywhere and everywhere about anything and everything.
6/22/2006 04:32:00 PM
These two were just a few of the Orange faithful that made it over to Germany.
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- The heart of the TU campus is buzzing. The school band is playing fight songs to the delight of orange-clad students while vendors are selling beer, hot dogs and hamburgers as the center of campus quickly fills up with about 2,000 screaming fans. For a second it almost feels as if I'm at the the other UT in Knoxville on game day before you hear the pre-game crowd shouting, "Hup Holland! Hup Holland!" before mixing in a "Hol-land, (clap-clap-clap), Hol-land." Such outbursts of raw emotion are rare here at the Technische Universiteit (Technical University) in Eindhoven, but that's what happens when the Netherlands are playing in the World Cup, especially against Argentina in the last game before the knockout stages.
While a steady stream of rain is falling on campus, it doesn't detour fans, wearing orange ponchos or holding orange umbrellas, from congregating around a Jumbotron with concert sized speakers on either side blasting the Dutch play-by-play of the game so that it can be heard as far as the train station a couple miles away. Most of the "Oranje Army" are dressed as if they are at the match with a couple even wearing orange lion costumes and banging drums during the match.
My cousin, who is a student at TU and my personal interpreter of what the play-by-play man is saying from time to time, tells me that this is actually finals week at TU and that many of the students in the crowd probably have final exams in the morning. "I think most of the professors understand that football comes before studies for a game like this," she says. "So they reminded us to get everything out of the way before the game."
Although the game certainly had a big game look and feel, some of the air was taken out of the festivities when Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie joined Arjen Robben on the bench before the 69th minute and Lionel Messi, Riquelme and Nicolas Burdisso were subbed before the 79th minute despite the scoreless game being easily winnable with both sides creating some terrific opportunities. The truth, however, was that neither side was willing to push their starters too long or risk anyone being hit with a card since both teams had already qualified for the round of 16 and were content to let the game play out as a scoreless draw, which is exactly what happened.
The result was just fine for the crowd, which clapped up the players on the television after the match while the band played a couple of Dutch anthems. Afterwards the students walked across campus where popular Dutch rock band Rowwen Heze were staging a post-game concert in the rain soaked campus park. Although most students resisted creating a mosh pit in front of the stage, a good number joined in a conga line during the concert, including one that looked like Dutch model Doutzen Kroes and had the same first name. When I asked her where the after party was, she said that center of Eindhoven and Stratumseind in particular was the place to be. Being within conga line dancing distance to the center we danced on over to Stratumseind, where the official slogan is "Da's logisch," which is Dutch for "That's logical," which makes sense since it was only logical that the dozens of bars and clubs that line this cobble stoned area of town is filled with hundreds of orange clad Dutch fans drinking pints of Heineken, Grolsch and Dommelsch beer, throwing back krokets like they're going of style (which they already did in my book) and getting down with whatever the DJ is spinning even though it's as wide-ranging as Peter Allen's "I Go To Rio" to Kanye West's "Gold Digger."
The night ended in the most unusual of ways after I said my goodbyes to the lovely TU girls and saw them hop on their bikes (cars are thought of as a luxury in the bike crazy town of Eindhoven) from campus and somehow balance themselves as they rode back home. "I would give you a ride," said Doutzen. "But my ride is only a one seater."
Amsterdam is firmly behind Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Holland heading into their match against Argentina later on tonight.
Ben Radford/Getty Images
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Orange signs, streamers and flags are lining cobble stoned streets otherwise known for their, ahem, red hue near the Amstel River. The signs scream "Hup Holland!" or "Go Holland!" in Dutch in preparation for Holland's World Cup match with Argentina tonight. Even the dozens of "coffee shops" around the city are planning to show the game in their smoke filled establishments while many scantily clad women sitting behind neon lit windows plan on closing shop during the game. "Of course I'm going to watch," says one to my cousin, Hamed, who asks how many of the "working girls" in the Red Light District will actually be "working" during the game. "I know a lot of girls are going to take a break because no one will be in the street. I will be watching on a TV in my room. Do you want to see it." My cousin, who lives a couple hours away in Eindhoven laughs, and declines the invitation.
While there is a certain charm to a city that basically let's anything go, the smell of weed, urine and manure from police horses around the red light district quickly takes a toll on the senses. Combine that with cat calling prostitutes, shady dudes whispering "coca" as you walk by and drunk or drugged out homeless folks sleeping in alleys and it isn't long before my cousin and I make a bee line out of the X-rated part of town. "That's about as dirty as I've felt in a while," I tell him. "And I took a shower this morning."
Of course, the Red Light District wasn't the only tourist trap in Amsterdam supporting "Team Oranje" on the heels of their match against Argentina. Most of the good folks working at the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House Museum were also abuzz about the game and were more than willing to talk about it when asked. In fact, I have yet to meet anyone here who isn't fluent in English. My cousin says that because most Dutch know at least three languages fluently since most will have to find jobs elsewhere since the country is so small. "We listen to American music and watch American television and movies with Dutch subtitles growing up here," said Hamed. "So most Dutch not only know how to speak English but enjoy practicing and speaking it with Americans."
I'll check back later with a recap of the Holland-Argentina game from the Netherlands later tonight.
The IBC's master control room, part of the hub for all Cup broadcasts.
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
MUNICH, Germany - I'm not the biggest fan of tours -- growing up near Universal Studios Hollywood and memorizing the entire back lot tour like the Gettysburg Address can do that to a kid -- but when I was offered a rare all-access tour of the International Broadcast Center (IBC) for the World Cup before leaving Germany, I jumped at the chance. The 215,200-square-foot facility, which cost over $15 million and contains 120 studios and houses 250 radio and TV partners, is the hub for all World Cup broadcasts that will be beamed to more than 200 countries.
While I was being schooled on the "anatomy of a host broadcast operation," I don't mind telling you that I was as lost as I was back when I was taking trig in high school, only this time I didn't have a notepad in front of me to doodle stick figures. Although I might not know exactly how the "multilateral service for broadcast partners" works, I do know that I could spend a day at the IBC and not get tired. Without boring you with all the details of the hour-long tour (if you're interested though, here's a taste), the former Munich-Riem Airport was literally converted into a playground of sorts for broadcasters when they aren't working, complete with XBox 360 sets in front of a dozen flat screen HD televisions, foosball tables in the center of sofas and chairs, an outdoor Bavarian-style beer garden serving up cold beer and hot brats all day long, an international newsstand where daily publications from around the globe were free -- and the highlight -- a theatre-sized HD screen set up in a makeshift cinema with surround sound and cushioned seats. The popular cinema, which is usually packed for "big games," allows staff members to watch every World Cup match live like never before. I caught some of the Switzerland-Togo game from the comfy confines of the cinema and can honestly say its almost as good as being at the game, and even better if you simply want to focus on the match and not take in any of the atmosphere surrounding the game.
Watching the crystal clear picture and listening to the vibrant surround sound, I began to wonder how many of you out there actually own HDTVs and if that's changed the way you view sports? For example, I know I watch more hockey games now since it's on HDTV than I ever did before, and that my brother watches more soccer games for the same reason. The picture and sound of both sports on ESPN HD, HDNET and other HD networks makes you want to watch even if you have no real interest in the game itself. It's almost like getting a free ticket to a game and being told you can watch it from the comfort of your couch. Now how many sports fans with nothing else to do (or watch) are going to turn down an offer like that?
So what's your take on the whole HDTV craze? Have you caved in and bought a set, are you planning to do so soon, are you watching sports you'd never thought you'd watch simply because they're in HD? This inquiring mind wants to know.
Physical play dominated Saturday's U.S.-Italy match.
Photo by AP
MUNICH, Germany -- First of all, allow me to welcome you to "On The Scene," a regular journal of my various travels, assignments and nonsensical rants and raves where we'll be able talk about anything and everything from sports to pop culture and beyond. In the coming weeks I'll be on the road quite a bit, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that at various sporting events, concerts and parties and I hope to take you with me every step of the way via this journal. We begin in Germany where the World Cup has engulfed the country since the tournament kicked off nearly two weeks ago.
I arrived in Cologne on Friday night and attended two matches over the weekend -- USA-Italy in Kaiserslautern on Saturday and Brazil-Australia in Munich on Sunday -- and kept a diary throughout, so without any further adieu let's get to it.
Saturday, June 17: USA-Italy
- I get my first taste of how religious soccer is in Germany when I walk through the train station in Cologne and look up to find a giant Sistine Chapel-like painting of soccer stars David Beckham, Zinadine Zidane, Michael Ballak and others on the ceiling of the station which is adjacent to the famous Cologne Cathedral.
- Before heading to Kaiserslautern, I walk down old town Cologne and grab a quick lunch from one of the dozens of cafes and restaurants that line the cobble stoned streets. It's interesting that the large bratwursts, knockwursts, liverwursts and any other kind of wursts you can think of are heated and placed tiny rolls so both ends stick out. It's almost as if the bread is simply there so you don't burn your hands holding the meet. The piping hot sausages are so tasty though that the lack of accompanying bread quickly becomes a non-factor. It is also interesting to note that when ordering beer in most German establishments you simply ask for a beer instead of requesting a specific brand as most places only serve their own local beer as opposed to having a dozen different types of brew on tap.
- After satisfying my need for German brats and beer, I begin the three-hour trip to southwest Germany and arrive in the small town of Kaiserslautern around 6 p.m., three hours before the USA-Italy game. It isn't long before I discover that Kaiserslautern is located in Germany's largest forest area, and that Fritz Walter Stadium, which seats 46,000, is one of the smaller venues in the World Cup. The newly renovated stadium is located 40 meters above the city on Betzenberg Hill and fans are forced to hike up forest trails and weave through residential streets to get to the stadium from the center of the city. Despite the loss of breath from the up hill journey, the atmosphere in around the stadium on this night is amazing as American fans are making their presence known and making far more noise than the Italian contingent.
- Sitting nine rows from the field near Sam's Army, the physicality of the game, which featured three red cards and three stitches for a bloodied Brian McBride, was far more evident early on than it probably showed on television. The heated U.S. section was as loud and energetic as any other fan base at the World Cup and even turned ugly after DaMarcus Beasley slotted in a goal in the 66th minute to give the U.S. an apparent 2-1. After the goal was waived of for McBride being offside, fans in the corner of the stadium, behind goalkeeper Kasey Keller, began throwing cups, bottles and other trash from their seats toward the field and screaming obscenities at the officials and the Italians.
- While Team USA looked to be the better side throughout the match and probably deserved to win, it was still impressive to gain a 1-1 draw against one of the better teams in the tournament,down two men. After the game, a joyous Keller pumped his fists and raised his hands and clapped up Sam's Army, which was chanting "Ka-sey, Kel-ler" throughout the second half as he made save after save to earn the yanks their first-ever World Cup point in Europe.
Sunday, June 18: Brazil-Australia
The man known as "Fred" celebrates his goal against Australia on Sunday.
Photo by AP
- My stay in Munich begins somewhat ominously when I get to my room at the Four Points Olympiapark, and open my window to find that I have a sweeping view of the Olympic Village and the unmistakable balconies of the rooms we've seen countless times whenever the Munich massacre at the 1972 Olympics is documented. A marble plaque is placed in front of the door of the building the eleven Israeli athletes were brutally killed on Sept. 5, 1972. After recently watching One Day in September and Munich it was a somber sight that was cause for some serious reflection on what really matters in life.
- Before heading to the Munich Stadium, I stop by the Munich English Garden along the River Isar, which is the largest city park in Europe, and check out Chinesischer Turm's beer garden (the second largest beer garden in Germany) near the Chinese Tower where they are serving up liters of lager, oversized pretzels and endless links of brats to about 7,000 patrons while showing the Croatia-Japan game on a big screen television.
- After overstuffing myself again on beer and brats, I walk past some topless sunbathers in the park and make my way to the train station and into a jam-packed car of Brazilian and Australian fans. In the middle of the tightly packed section, I find myself standing next to Mia Hamm and her lovely sister as they make their way to the game as well. While Mia was being lauded as the best women's soccer player by some Aussies nearby, she shakes her head and offers a modest smile, "No, I'm not," she says. "I don't even play anymore." When we ask who's taken the mantle as best women's soccer player then, she lists some players from Germany none of us had ever heard of. "Yeah, well you're still the best," said one Aussie. When I bring up the U.S.-Italy game from the previous night, Mia raises her eyebrows and said, "They played great. It was real hard fought game." She turned down the chance to chastise the officials for the three red cards and the disallowed U.S. goal. "That's soccer. I thought they played great." Mia then looked up and started her own little chant when she saw we were only one stop away from the stadium. "One more stop, one more stop, one more stop."
- The newly built Munich Stadium with its futuristic design thanks to its 2,760 diamond-shaped air cushions which shape the outside of the stadium is one of the nicest sports venues I've ever seen. While the bubbles can light up at night -- usually red and blue for German Bundesliga games -- they were never illuminated since the game began at 6 p.m. and the sun didn't set in Munich for another three hours, long after the match had already ended. It's a shame since it would have been quite a sight. You'd think they would only play night games in a facility, which shines so brightly, figuratively and literally, at night.
- I doubt I will ever see as much yellow and green as I'm seeing in the sold-out, 66,000-seat Munich Stadium where both Brazil and Australia sport the bright yellow and green colors. There are certainly more Brazil fans in the crowd, but both teams must feel at home as they make their way onto the super hot pitch.
- It is an absolute thing of beauty to watch Brazil play soccer. While they haven't shown what they are truly capable yet in this World Cup, to see the top players in the world like Ronaldinho, Adriano, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Kaka and Cafu playing on the same side is pretty special. At some points in the match it appeared as if they were simply toying with the Aussies, never quite putting it in fifth gear because they didn't need to come out of the game with a 2-0 win. Of all the exotic names though, my favorite on the Brazilian team is Fred, who scored a late goal. You have to love a guy who takes the road less traveled and doesn't rename himself Fredinho or something more unique.
After a late night of partying with the Brazilians, I'll be spending most of Monday in Munich before heading to Amsterdam. You know I'll have plenty to write about from that trip tomorrow. Until then, take it easy.