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Sports

German Fans Show Unwavering Support

An estimated 85 percent of the German population tuned into the European Championship final June 29, flooding the streets with their revery and support for their team.

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More than 600,000 fans gathered at Berlin's fan mile on June 29

German city centers were raucous seas of black, red and gold flags, wigs and Hawaiian-style necklaces on Sunday for the final of Euro 2008, the last hurrah of three weeks of summer soccer fever.

Under sunny skies in central Berlin, some 600,000 fans massed at the special "Fan Mile" and oohed and aahed their way through a high-action final beamed in live from Vienna onto huge screens. The 1.2 kilometer long fan zone near the Brandenburg Gate was so full of jubilant fans that authorities had to close it off to new arrivals three hours before kick off.

Vendors had been doing a brisk trade for the past three weeks in flags, facepaints and national soccer shirts in a country now much more comfortable with patriotism ever since the 2006 World Cup was held in Germany.

Fußball Euro 2008 Finale Deutschland Spanien Angela Merkel und Michael Ballack

German Chancellor Angela Merkel comforts Germany's Michael Ballack at the end of the Euro 2008 final

The scene was similar in other towns and cities, with huge crowds chanting "Deutschland! Deutschland!" at public viewing areas, bars and street-side cafes, while tens of millions were glued to their TVs at home.

A soccer-crazed nation

A nation-wide poll conducted by the Bild am Sonntag tabloid said 85 percent of Germany's 82 million population would watch the game, bringing the country to a veritable stand-still for the duration of the final.

German automakers Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi shut down production during the game so that their workers could follow before the conveyor belts grind back into action after the final whistle.

Fanmeile Berlin EM Finale 2008

Berlin's fan mile is the country's biggest open-air public viewing

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who literally jumped for joy in Basel when Germany beat Turkey, traveled to Vienna for the match along with President Horst Koehler and other ministers. Merkel became a regular in the stands during the World Cup and has kept up with the action in Switzerland and Austria, even giving the players some motherly advice and mingling with the players and managers after the games.

The chancellor's spokesman had to keep her informed by text message of the score in the game against Portugal while she was tied up with more serious matters at an EU summit on June 19.

A parade has been organized in central Berlin for Monday for the players to thank their fans. City authorities have asked schools to give pupils the afternoon off so they can attend the event.

"It is very important for us that the team will be greeted by its supporters back in Germany. Berlin has become like a second home to us since the 2006 World Cup," trainer Joachim Loew said before the final game.

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