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Friday, June 9, 2006
Updated: June 10, 9:28 AM ET
Day 1 ... hail Germany!

By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2

Editor's Note: Michael Davies, who spent 2002 looking for a stick of deodorant in Japan and South Korea, is back to blog the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file multiple reports from Germany. Check back thoughout the day for more updates.

The Kaisergarten, Schwabing, 10:45 p.m., June 9
Michael Davies
Nick, me, Demonic Rob and Maik enjoying the beer and atmosphere at the Kaisergarten.
If you ever find yourself in Munich, and for your sake, I hope you do, head over to the Kaisergarten on Kaiserstrasse in Schwabing. It is the perfect pub. Or Bier Keller. Beautiful building. Perfect location. Great beer. People who aren't idiots who are there to have a good time. And attractive waitstaff.

I meet Rob Stone and his crew from ESPN in a table inside and towards the big screen showing Ecuador stun Poland, two goals to nil. I meet producer Jim, cameraman Maik, audio guy Nick and somewhat insane driver Andreas, who is German through and through but supports Costa Rica. They congratulate me heartily for introducing them to this bar, and we drink plenty, eat lots of sausage, heckle the German postgame show on the projection TV and talk about football.

How do we capture this back in the U.S.? How do we figure a way to show Americans how joyous and simultaneously significant is our World Cup? I suggest that we figure a way to transmit beer over the airwaves or down the cable. Everyone seems to think this is a good idea. But by this time each of us has drunk about six and a half pints of the amber nectar.

Michael Davies
A girl and my new German friends, with a trophy they won't win.
Rob and the gang leave around 1 a.m., but I remain and hang out with my new German friends, Sebastian and Robert and their gang from Berlin. We talk football and do shots -- a dreaded combination. By the end of the night, I'm sold on the Germans -- they are sweet and kind and generous in a way that English fans rarely are. All at once, they are convinced their side can win it all and convinced that they cannot. They fear England more than anyone. But that has more perhaps with a dread of England winning on German soil.

I thoroughly enjoy my evening. I stroll back home, three quarters of a mile up Leopoldstrasse. It is mild but there is a slight cut in the air -- I fell tense, ready for a long drive up to Frankfurt and the World Cup debut of my beloved England.

The World Cup is under way. But tomorrow it gets serious.

And I'm going to have a hangover.

Main press room, FIFA World Cup Stadium, Munich, 8:14 p.m., June 9
Well, that was a bit more like it. Not much of a football game but a goalfest with a couple couple of swervy, light speed, new World Cup ball specials and everyone seemed to have a good time. Except these guys.


On the way to the stadium I was still worried about the complete lack of World Cup atmosphere in Munich. I have never seen a more orderly or quieter crowd leaving a train station on the way to a match in my life. This wasn't Iran vs. Togo they were going to watch. It was their national team in their own country. Not a song, not a cheer, not a fight.


What can I say about the stadium? It looks like a giant inflatable pool toy.


Met up with my good friend Rob Stone, in my humble view the most underated talent in the entire ESPN universe. Rob just called the World Series of Darts (yes, darts, you better believe it) for me, which is going to air on ESPN in July. I love the way he brings an MLS angle to everything -- even darts. Rob regaled me for five full minutes on the MLS connections of the entire Costa Rican squad. These guys do their research!


As you can see, we had great seats. Here's another example:


In fact, the seats were so good that I managed to start my Davies World Cup Diary Photo Tribute to The Unsung Heroes of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Like this guy:


And this guy. Who came on at halftime to do some gardening.


The match was played by and large in the Costa Rican half -- and Torsten Frings just dominated central midfield before scoring with a wallop of a goal in the 87th minute to end any hope of a Costa Rican fightback.

But the Costa Rican fans had a wail of a good time, and often outsung the German crowd, who only really seemed to loosen up when their team scored or it was their turn to stand up for the obligatory Central American wave. Which started after eight minutes! Ridiculous. That's why Costa Rica equalized in the 11th. It was karma.


Other random thoughts on Game 1:

Philipp Lahm's outrageous 7th-minute screamer flew at autobahn speed like a wiffle ball past Jose Poras in the Costa Rican goal. This ball is more than quick. It's a bit silly. Bear in mind that Lahm is a left back. He hit it with his right.

If they didn't have golf-range nets behind the goals, some spectator might get killed.

Though both Paulo Wanchope goals were clearly, but only just, onside, I wonder if the linesmen have been briefed at this World Cup to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking player and keep their flags by their sides. In previous World Cups, close decisions have tended to go the other way.

I missed the preshow with Toni Braxton. Perhaps my editors could find a picture. I hear some of our readers might be interested in the slit in her dress.

photo credit: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

The German fans sang some interesting songs during the match, but most are now localized versions of English hits. My favorite was "Stand auf for the Fatherland." It's like Pop Idol, or "Millionaire" or "Deal or No Deal." We're watching the same TV shows and singing the same songs all over the world. I think Endemol are behind this somehow. Damn those low countries!!!!

My man of the match: Torsten Frings. The greatest name in German football. Even better than Bastian Schweinsteiger.

And now it's Poland vs. Ecuador. The Ecuadorian national anthem is ringing out across the press room and my fellow football writers seem as unmoved as ever:


The FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 is truly under way. I'm heading back to Schwabing for a beer or seven with Rob at the KaiserGarten. Check back later for my first post written severely under the influence of strong Bavarian beer.

The San Francisco Café, Schwabing, Germany, 1:15 p.m., June 9
Today, I am:

For: England, the U.S., Costa Rica, Lowenbrau, Schwabing and sad customs agents.

shoes and coffee
Enjoying an espresso in Schwabing before I put on my limited-edition Hugo Boss Brazil sneakers.
Against: Paraguay, Scotland, Germany, narrow toilet paper, the Louis Vuitton Munich city guide and German reporters who look like me.

Wearing: A Brazil shirt to match my limited edition Hugo Boss Brazil sneakers. (In my diary photos, I'll eventually sport the jersey of all 32 teams.)

Because: My Costa Rican shirt hasn't arrived yet.

So less than five hours now until the World Cup kicks off with Costa Rica taking on Germany, and I must admit to being somewhat disappointed at the complete lack of atmosphere in this city. Don't get me wrong, I love Munich and am presently sitting in a coffee shop in my favorite district, Schwabing, an artsy neighborhood of sidewalk cafés and bierkellers just north of the university.

Davies' badge
Why my friends hate me.
This morning, I rode the U-Bahn out to the international press center and picked up my priceless press pass. There's a photo to the right just to annoy my friends.

I didn't hear a single person talk on the train. I saw one girl smile when her boyfriend kissed her. But that was it. I saw an old couple with their faces painted red, orange and black and draped in German flags. They looked as if they were going to a funeral.

The Costa Ricans I met weren't much better. Very glum about their star player, Paolo Wanchope. Apparently, he's crap.

I don't care. I will be cheering heartily this evening for the Costa Ricans. This World Cup already needs an upset to ratchet up the atmosphere.

Room 536, somewhere in Munich, 8:05 a.m., June 9
I wake up. I see blue sky and sun. "Football," I say. It is a perfect day for football. Clear, warmish and somewhere on planet Earth.

shoes and coffee
Could this be my long-lost German half-brother who pops didn't tell me about?!
The World Cup is less than 10 hours away says the man on "Guten Morgen Deutschland" or whatever they call their morning show and, as I rub my bleary eyes, I am disconcerted by how much he looks like me.

I am also disconcerted by the narrowness of the toilet paper in the bathroom, at least an inch and a half narrower than any toilet paper I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Is this a national phenomenon or just a design quirk in this hotel? I'll keep you posted.

OK: Let's get down to business and repeat some of my World Cup Diary rules. Or rather, just one. I'm going to be calling this "football."

Football is my favorite word. I say it often. I say it when I wake up in the morning. It is often the last thing I say before I go to sleep at night. Like a man lost in the desert says "water." Football. Give me football.

Don't get me wrong, I love American football -- the crashing of helmets, the gaining of a yard, the sheer, manly, broad-shoulderedness of the whole spectacle.

But that's not my game. My game is played by whingey Italians and South Americans who fall over at the slightest touch, spend hours considering their hair, and have names like Francesco and Gabriel.

Sure, my football has its share of hard men, Germans and Englishmen and Poles who'll cut you in half with a studs-up tackle, shove an elbow in your throat and go in hard, head first. And not just the fans.

I can't describe to you why I love football so much -- and particularly World Cup football. The new football intelligentsia seem to define its appeal in geopolitical and socio-cultural terms, lauding its wide-eyed internationalist optimism.

But I just want England to win. And the U.S. to prove everyone wrong. And the fans to be passionate. And games to be open, and high-scoring and -- when they don't involve England -- close.

After four years without sustenance, I am starving. I need football.

Room 536, somewhere in Munich, 1:01 a.m., June 9
OK, so I've only been here four hours, but I just can't get over how deserted, eerily quiet and frankly "down" this city is. At the airport, I was cross-examined by a plain-clothed customs agent more out of boredom than any sense I was under suspicion. He talked for a minute in German, slowly, but without taking a pause. I could hardly understand a word, except when he offered me a hot coffee and a wet dinner roll (it has been a while since I took German). I told him I was here for the football. Just the football, he inquired? Just the football, I answered. I felt it inappropriate to take this opportunity to talk about my love of beer. He looked sad as he waved me through. Almost as if he just wanted a chat.

Michael Davies
This is me, looking as joyless as the rest of Munich about the World Cup.
At the rental-car counter, the bored-looking trainee with a nose piercing "regrettably" upgraded me to a Mercedes CLK convertible. Strange use of "regrettably," I thought, but as I walked away to the halogen-lit rows of perfect German cars in the perfect parking lot, I looked back through the glass doors. I'm pretty sure she grabbed her head in her hands and started crying.

In the parking lot, I was greeted by a jet-lagged Costa Rican family and five big guys from Mexico in spangly, sequined Mexico jackets. We had originally met in customs, where they had all been detained for hours. It was like the German version of "Lost In Translation." We were all jet-lagged and a bit creeped out. It didn't feel like the Coke ads. Where were the crowds? The global festival? The last I saw of the Mexicans, they were driving away, packed into what looked like a Smart car. Like sad, squished-up clowns.

As I was driving away from the airport toward Munich, the autobahn was practically deserted. A Porsche flashed past me at about 200 kilometers per hour [almost 125 mph]. I arrived at my hotel not far from downtown Munich. The bellman wearily made his way over to my car and told me to put it in the garage myself. And could I bring my bags up in the elevator because his back hurt. My room is drab and lifeless. But I could give a crap. I'm here for the football. And there's Lowenbrau in the mini bar.

Munich Airport, 8:55 p.m., June 8
I don't like jetways. I think that's what they're called. Those strange and awkward mechanical octopus limbs, operated by confused-looking ground airport workers, that invariably fail to sidle up to your airbus on arrival. I like good old-fashioned airplane steps, those awkward-looking staircases on wheels that trundle up to your aircraft in the Caribbean, in small African nations and, bizarrely, at the Munich airport.

I descend the 23 steps from my British Airways flight from Heathrow, ruined by an idiotic Scot sitting in front of me yelling "Come on, Paraguay" (England's opening World Cup opponent Saturday) and loudly complaining about the linesman's decision in the 1966 World Cup final (which England won) to a bemused South African flight attendant.

I reach the bottom. And I am overwhelmed by an urge. I kneel to the ground and kiss the tarmac. I have no love for the Fatherland. I kiss football.

Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.