Thursday, June 26, 2008

EURO 2008 Fan Mile Berlin - Germany vs. Turkey

Last night we along with about 800,000 others we packed our fan items together and headed down to the Brandenburg Gate for a public viewing of the Semi-Final of EURO 2008, the European Football Championship. Tonight's teams, Germany vs. Turkey.

Click the pics to "imbiggen" them.
The full set of pics on Flickr.

Out of 800,000 people, about 300,000 were turned away at the gates almost an hour before the game even started. You Snooze, You Lose I guess. Berlin Mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and his administration restricted the Fan Mile in space and time. Instead of being allowed to broadcast all games, we were only allowed to show the games beginning with the semi-finals. Instead of having the entire distance between the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule, we were only given half the space. This meant that there was no way to have the normal space for a million people, thus many people were sadly turned away.

In the press and around town there was some speculation that the festivities would turn ugly. The American Embassy even warned us about it. A few of my friends suggested that we should not go because of the bad blood running between the Germans and the Turks and the possibility of it coming out in such an environment.

There are more Turks living here in Berlin than in any other city outside of Turkey. They came to Germany in the 50's and 60's as guest workers and the great majority never left. The bad blood is caused by many factors, not the least of which is that the Turks are seen by many Germans as some kind of second-class citizen... and of course the Turks know this. Many of the Turkish families in Berlin still cling to their life in Turkey and raise their children speaking their native tongue with German being taught only in the schools. So of course when it comes to education the kids start out behind the full Germans, thus when the time arrives for the choices for higher education, often the Turkish kids are left behind, making the circle complete. Sad but true.

We sat in the VIP section over the crowd at the Gate. This is a nice place to go to get the feeling of a huge crowd at such an event, without all the jostling about from being down on the ground. As each team was introduced, the respective fans screamed and I must admit that I got goosebumps. That kind of almost electric power from an excited crowd is a feeling which is hard for me to describe, and I love it!

Before the game the captains read prepared statements asking for unity and calling for an end to racism. This action was completely unprecedented and well received by the crowd I was able to observe. In the crowd of people were a group of kids who were decked out in both Turkish and German fan gear. At one point they tied each of the flags together and then held the combined Turk/Germ flag up in the air the rest of the night.

The game itself was a little sad. Truly the Turkish team out-played the German team. They were better at placing the ball, better at "rebounding" so to speak, and simply played with pride, heart, and a depth of character not really seen in this tournament. The team itself was down to the bare depths. Several members had received the red card in a previous game and had to sit out this game, while others went home with injuries.

The German team on the other hand made many mistakes and simply did not play very well at all. Despite scoring more goals and winning the game, they really didn't work together as a team the way I've seen in the past. All in all it was not really a good game, even though it was a cliffhanger so to speak.
Remember that even though the Turks lost, here in Berlin the Turkish fans have a different perspective as they have pride in the Turkish team, but really are Germans as well. Thus it is sad that the team of their lineage didn't win, but their home team is still in the game. I think that this combined with the fact that in general the Turks generally don't drink (they're Muslim, and Allah doesn't allow it... well, as a Turkish friend once told me... sometimes they do... "what Allah doesn't see won't hurt him"), kept the crowd quite peaceful.

During the game the TV station twice lost feed from the source. The sound from the crowd was classic, a HUGE AWWWWW. It was kind of cute. Then people started looking at each other and moving around more whereas seconds before they were firmly planted, even transfixed by the screen. The line at the beer stand was instantly huge, and the riot police put their helmets on. Both times when the game came back on the screen there was a fantastic cheer.

From our vantage point we had an interesting view of a possible problem early on in the game. The Turks were outnumbered about 10 to 1 in the crowd. Of course the only way to gauge this is by looking at the flying flags which were pretty much grouped in one area, but I bet that is about right.

The Turks scored the first goal of the evening, and began a celebration in their little group which was not too far from the stage. We could see the smaller group of people moving within the larger crowd and watched as things such as bottles started being thrown into and out of that group.

The police who had staked out the area in front of us for best vantage point were immediately standing straight up and pointing at the group of people moving around in a circle. I looked over at the formerly lazy-looking riot police and saw them energetically moving toward the stage while donning their helmets and other protection. Very soon the movement stopped and there was no further trouble the rest of the night which we could see.

As for the drive home... well, it could have been better. N. has what can only be described as an extreme dread of fireworks and loud, unexpected noises. Well, perhaps you can imagine that it was very much like a war zone on our way home through part of Kreutzberg (one of the Turkish neighborhoods). Adding to that, we were both on Mimi the scooter with N. driving and the feeling of exposure is about 150% worse. On top of those lovely facts we have the celebrating fans who were jumping about in the streets screaming, waving and blocking traffic. It's not that it is dangerous, or that we fear for our safety or some kind of aggression... it is just that you must be careful that some well-meaning and extremely happy fan does not pop out in front of you, or drive in an unsafe way, causing a wreck.

When we got home she stood in the middle of our bedroom, took a deep breath and firmly declared that she will go to no more games at the Gate with me. Whoops. Tonight is the company party at the enclosed VIP area which I need to attend and then we have the same possibility to sit in the VIP area for the final. Ahem... I wonder how to approach that with her. Tonight I must make an appearance, so I will probably leave at halftime. But maybe we can have a get together at our house and invite a few friends for Sunday. Suggestions for snackables? :)

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barbara said...

That was an interesting insiders story of the match.
Best of luck for the final on Sunday !!

I'm as far away from a soccer fan as you can get, but I respect the passion that it brings out of people.
Geez; France did'nt make it far... that's the way it goes.

I loved the gesture of the people who tied together the German & Turk flags. It's a shame that this rasicm exists in soccer.Really... when you play as a team/ support it you are one.

J said...

Thanks for the great writeup.

G in Berlin said...

Great write up. I walked Ku'damm after that game and many people were wearing flags from both countries, as well as some Turkish flags alone. Everyone was very friendly and happy and nice.(I was rooting for Turkey, though. I think their team had great heart.) My in-laws and husband were rooting for DE, and we switched off after the game to go out and mingle with the (much smaller)crowds here on Kudamm.

Diane Mandy said...

We saw a lot of celebrating between both the Turkish fans and German fans in Mannheim. It was heartwarming to see it.

Goofball said...

sorry Germany lost the final!