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Vienna | 12.6.2008 | 13:07 
Letters from a shrinking globe: around the day in 80 worlds

Zita, Rotifer, Steve

A Week in the Fan Zone
  "Expect emotion", the publicity stickers around Austria have been promising us form months, but the land-lords apparently expected thirst - more thirst. I've heard that this is apparently a disappointing European Championship because the fans aren't drinking ENOUGH beer!

The irony won't be only apparent to those who have stepped over prostrate alcohol victims at previous football festivals. For me, drunken boorishness and stomach-pumpings have little to do with atmosphere and love of football.

My passion for major football championships started at age 10, when the glamour, the drama, and the tragedy of a football festival tied me and my orange squash to the sofa for a month during Italia 90 (England, I don't need to mention, went out on penalties). That's why I find it difficult to measure football passion in the volumes of beer that have been drunk. It's about the ability of a tournament to capture the public imagination - and particularly the imagination of kids.

Around residential streets where I live, I've seen little boys (mostly) and girls out and about every day with footballs and their little replica shirts from Turkey, Croatia and Austria. For that sight alone these championships are a joy.
Common Sense vs Rampant Commercialism
  I'm sorry for the landlords who have expensively rented beer-stalls in the Fan Zone, or actually I'm sorry for the temporary workers, often students, who face being laid off by those landlords. But it seems - surprise, surprise - that it was a naive assumption that fans would buy Danish beer for 4.50 Euros in a plastic cup, when they could get cheaper and, many appear to think, better beer in glasses around the corner. That seems like a triumph of common sense over rampant commercialism.

The landlords took a gamble on the fans being richer than they perhaps are and more stupid than they actually are. And that gamble appears to have simply back-fired.

Call me heartless, but I believe I can hold the tears back. Anyway, let's see what happens if the weather improves.
4 minutes gone and little big man Modric has stung Austria with a penalty. No that these boys were complaining.
It's OK to be chilled.
  I also don't think it is such a bad thing if Austrians are enjoying the football in a more relaxed way than previous hosts. After all, this is not a competition with the 'Sommermärchen' Germans about who can wave the biggest flags and sing the most out of tune.

It's a fine thing if every host brings its own national flair, and, as I was sitting enjoying the game on a beach bar on the Danube Canal, I wondered if it was such a bad thing that Austria might be remembered for one of the country's most attractive philosophies - 'Gemütlichkeit'.Mind you, don't forget that I'm a cricket fan!

Of the 100,000 fans partying in Vienna on Sunday night, 8 were arrested: 7 for drunken brawling (some beer must be selling) and one of them for stealing a "Lebkuchen-Brezen".

(That the rioting German fans arrested in Klagenfurt seem stuck in the most unattractive part of the 1970's is as sad as it is pathetic).
My Face Paint
  Sipping a non-Fan Zone cold beer on the edge of Prater, served by a stoic landlord who was "waiting for (his) heart to be broken", and then walking with some Croat fans through the sun-streaked green canopy of the Prater forest to the stadium made me realise why (at times!) I love this country.

Being relaxed about things isn't a crime.

Supporting your country, without getting bullish and nationalistic is very attractive.

When I looked around the stadium on Sunday, every Austrian fan I saw, apart from 2 'Grantler' sitting right next to me, stood for the entirety of the Croatian anthem. That in itself, I think, was a triumph for co-host Austria.

I had my face painted red and white, by the way, as I was waiting to get in to the stadium. It seemed churlish to refuse the war paint on the grounds of my passport; and as the man with the paint-stick kindly explained "singst für uns, bist einer von uns." (a variation on 'Bisscht Tiroler, bisscht Mensch'?" Obviously Mr. war-paint was a tolerant man, or else one who hasn't heard my singing voice.

Anyone who thinks that Austria isn't getting behind the national team, should take a trip into my head and hear the ringing that is a 4 day hangover from the stadium atmosphere. Tinnitus was not a Euro souvenir I intend to keep! The long and short of it is that I've been to the Ernst Happel a few times now, but the atmosphere on Sunday was incomparable to anything I've seen before, both in terms of volume and good-humour.
My war-paint. I'm so old now, I have to put on glasses to see the bloody ball!
A Patriotic Pub
  If, as a fan of a non-qualified nation, I was proud of my red and white cheeks, Irishman Brian Patton, who has the same predicament, has put me to shame. He's painted the façade of his pub Charlie P's red and white and renamed it "Karli P's Irisches Beisl" I went there following a tip from a FM4 poster who rather melancholically calls himself 'malheur', and was so delighted that I stopped for another non Fan Zone beer (I know, 2 in this story. It's becoming a bit of a habit). The beer is red. Hilarious. Thank you, Malheur.
  So Austria plays Poland tonight. It's eminently winnable, isn't it? For my stoic beer-seller on the Jesuitenwiese, I hope this little dream does come true - the Swiss press are already at their team's throats.

  While we are talking about Switzerland's tragedy, what about the first half of their match with Turkey? We were expecting Noah to turn up looking to give Mr. and Mrs. Mountain Marmot a ride in his boat. It reminded my of the Sportfreunde Stiller's wonderful lyrics in "Dem Fritz Sein Wetter":

"es schüttet wie aus eimern
klar bin ich dabei, mann
da gibt es nichts zu überlegen
gibt nichts besseres als 'n kick im regen."

It was like choosing the 'heavy weather' option on our late 90's FIFA video game. Farcical but somehow delicious.

  If you want the best, most informed (also most modest) reports on the action at Euro 2008, tune into FM4 News
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