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June 21, 2006

Togo vs Switzerland

Getting into the ground was easy for us, as we had no bags, coats or paraphenalia, but a lot of other people went through quite an extensive search. As has been reported, officials were confiscating flags and scarfs with prominent logos for non-FIFA sponsor companies. I'm sure I agreed to it on the website when I ticked the terms and conditions box whilst ordering the ticket, but I do think it is a bit presumptious of FIFA to dictate what can or cannot be worn within the stadium purely on commercial rather than safety grounds.

Wcbud One of the saddest things about the corporate sponsorship takeover of the FIFA World Cup was being in Germany, home of so many fine beers, and finding at the ground that the only option was to pay €4 for 0.4l of USA brand Budweiser. Plus a €1 deposit for a special FIFA World Cup Budweiser glass to drink it from. Which is an absolute scam, because who is going to queue up after the game to reclaim their €1? On principle I took the glass out with me as my souvineer from the game, and then left it behind somewhere in one of the bars we visited later on. On the plus side, though, I am still surprised when going to football in Europe that you can actually take the beer through to your seats and sup whilst you watch - rather than trying to cram two pints in at half-time like people tend to do in the UK.

Another sign of how much of a grip FIFA and their official partners have on the branding of the tournament is that along with several other of the German stadiums hosting games, Borussia Dortmund's has been renamed 'FIFA WM Stadium' for the duration of the event, and any trace of the usual "The Signal Iduna Park" sponsorship has been removed from the stadium. I'm guessing that the Reebok Stadium won't feature in any future bid for the World Cup from England, although Arsenal's new Emirates stadium would be just fine with FIFA's commercial lawyers.

Wcflags Despite my niggles about the commercial handling of the competition, we really enjoyed ourselves. The atmosphere was exceptional, and the number of tickets on the black market meant it was virtually a home game for the Swiss. I'd estimate there were maybe 200 genuine Togo fans at most, with another 1,000 or so people who had adopted them for the day. The game itself was enjoyable, with Togo just lacking the quality they needed in the final third in order to get something from the game. Just like the atmosphere in the city itself, it was a really friendly feeling there, with Swiss fans applauding good play from Togo, multiple Mexican waves keeping everyone on their toes, and an amazing lap of honour and celebration from the Swiss team, who reacted to their win as if they had won one of the knock-out rounds of the tournament.


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Any rule that eliminates any trace of AOL from Hamburg's stadium is fine with me.

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