The Outsider′s View of Germany′s World Cup Soap Opera | World Cup 2006 | DW | 10.03.2006
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World Cup 2006

The Outsider's View of Germany's World Cup Soap Opera

For Germans, the reporting of the World Cup preparation process has become almost a daily soap opera but how do issues such as the struggles with hooliganism, security and stadium safety look to those outside Germany?

Thousands of fans will descend on Germany for the World Cup but what do they expect?

Thousands of fans will descend on Germany for the World Cup but what do they expect?

Inside Germany's borders, the country's World Cup preparations -- with all their successes and failures -- have been followed almost daily by the media. As a result, even the most mundane twists and turns of the process have been reported and passed on to the public. People in Germany are now either very well informed or fed up with the whole thing.

But the World Cup, of course, is not just a German event. From the beginning of June, the teams and supporters of 31 other countries will begin to descend on Germany for the actual tournament.

While the World Cup soap opera has been playing almost constantly in the host country since it was awarded the championships in 2002, the other participating countries have had other things on their minds, like qualification and their own chances of lifting the trophy.

So have such widely debated topics as security, stadium safety and ticket allocation made any impact outside Germany? Do the other nations really care about the preparations as long as the World Cup takes place?

Patrice Armand of the French Football Supporters Union remembers the build up to France's tournament in 1998, the last World Cup to be played on European soil. "In France it felt like we were cut off from the rest of the world while preparing for the tournament in 1998," he said.

The French faced a number of similar challenges to the Germans in the build-up to their World Cup but Armand believes Germany has had a tougher job this time round.

A changing world with changing challenges

Französische Fans

The French celebrated after preparation stress subsided

"The world has changed dramatically since 1998. Germany has had to deal with the increased threat from international terrorism, something that was less of a worry for France eight years ago. I think Germany is doing the best it can to protect the World Cup from attack but it could do more."

When asked if he thought the German army should be deployed as an added security force, Armand said: "That is an issue for the Germans to decide. For the French, it would be no problem but we do not have such a weight of history on us as the Germans do. I think the Germans should do whatever it takes to secure the World Cup."

France suffered from the scourge of hooliganism in '98 and the Germans are hoping they have learnt from the lessons of the past. They have prepared a plan for dealing with the threat, specifically from renowned hooligans and bitter rivals from England and the Netherlands.

Judge us on behavior, not reputation, say England fans

With the German police under orders to watch these sets of fans in particular, what feeling does that create in these countries in the build-up to the tournament?

Euro2004, Gruppe B, England, Kroatien, englische Fans

England fans have worked hard to change perceptions

"England fans want to be judged on their behavior and not their reputation," said Andrin Cooper from the English Football Association (FA). "Our fans have made huge strides in recent years to change perceptions. We had just one arrest at Euro 2004 in Portugal and none at the 2002 World Cup."

"The FA is expecting a great World Cup in a real football country with a real football culture. Germany has great infrastructure and great stadiums and the Organizing Committee and host cities have really made an effort to welcome everyone with open arms. We're confident it will be a successful, safe World Cup."

Dutch expert fears open-space hooliganism

Ron Elsker, an expert on Dutch soccer hooliganism, agreed but had concerns about security away from the stadiums. "I think the idea of having public viewing areas is unavoidable considering the demand for the World Cup, but I also feel that the Germans have dug themselves into a hole with this idea," Elsker said.

Confederations Cup - Fernsehzuschauer

The idea of "fanparks" has some security experts concerned

"I don't think they are prepared enough to deal with the potential for violence at these events. A stadium is one thing, a wide open public place is a lot harder to police."

Even if the stadiums are secure when it comes to potential violence, there have been concerns raised about the condition and safety precautions in place at the grounds.

After a widely reported spat between the Organizing Committee and consumer watchdog magazine Stiftung Warentest over a report that four World Cup stadiums had inadequate safety measures in place, a recent UEFA Cup clash between Stuttgart and English team Middlesbrough at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadium once again raised these concerns.

No safety fears for fans despite Stuttgart incident

A burst pipe in a kitchen caused an alert 30 minutes before kick-off and the announcements which followed were made in German, with no translation, meaning many Boro fans remained in their seats during the evacuation.

Paddy Cronesberry, the chairman of Middlesbrough's disabled supporters club was in Stuttgart for the game. "Most of the disabled supporters were stopped from entering once the alarm went off, but those supporters in the ground had no idea what was happening."

WM-Stadion 2006 Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion in Stuttgart

Traveling fans were impressed by Stuttgart's stadium

"Despite that, I was very impressed by the stadium and the safety measures although access could have been better. We only had a couple of thousand fans and the two gates for the away end still made it tight. A large contingent may have bigger problems." "The Germans are the best at organizing anything and have had a lot of experience of big sporting events. I have no concerns about safety for fans in the German stadiums. I think the attitudes of people are the most important thing. If you go with a positive one, you will help the World Cup be a huge success."

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