Heavenly feeling at the World Cup

IF SOMEONE created a heaven specifically for football fans, then it would look a bit like what the Germans have created this summer. Minus the drunk Aussies of course.

IF SOMEONE created a heaven specifically for football fans, then it would look a bit like what the Germans have created this summer. Minus the drunk Aussies of course.

I'm bashing this column out at a free Internet point under Potsdamer Platz, a mere Stuart Pearce free-kick from the Brandenburg Gate. Somewhere above me the BBC team are running through their lame jokes ahead of tonight's highlights show, and all around are glum Croatians muttering about missed penalties.

You've all seen Adrian Chiles, Ian Wright and all that lot on their gantry with that giant football in the background, but what you won't realise, and I didn't until I got here, is that behind them the statues on the Brandenburg Gate look down on the Berlin Fan Fest. There's one in every city, but this is the biggest and probably the best.

Hundreds of food and beer stalls line the avenue, and every 100 metres or so is a 60ft by 60ft screen beaming live matches down to thousands of fans sunning themselves below.

Today was Croatia's turn to take over, with hundreds of check-shirted supporters chewing on their bratwursts and sipping warm lager, but as that game finished, the scene turned yellow as Brazil's fans - a lot of them about as familiar with the streets of Rio as you or I, but let's not quibble - turned the scene a bright shade of yellow.

Everywhere Germans, some proudly sporting mohicans in their national colours, relaxed and gazed at the tourists. They can sit back and put their feet up having qualified for the next stage and I can report that much like back home, a flag flutters from every car. Add into that the shirts and painted faces of all the other nations, and it's like a football pick and mix.

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You have to hand it to the hosts, they've put on a great show. I was barely out of baggage claim before a fresh-faced youth - complete with badge saying he was a World Cup volunteer - was pressing leaflets galore into my hands and showing me how to use the complicated ticket machines for the airport rail service. I was so touched I almost forgave Andreas Moller for that chin-sticking-out penalty celebration at Wembley in 1996. Almost.

It all seemed a long way from the suspicous atmosphere at Luton Airport several hours earlier where, along with anyone else male between the ages of 20 and 40, I got stopped by her Majesty's finest so they could run my passport through their special hooligan-detecting machine before letting me loose on Germany.

Everyone else in my group was sent on their way within few seconds, but there was a delay at my terminal as the officer pursed his lips and stared intently at the screen.

All sorts of paranoid thoughts started to swill around in my brain. That fight in the fourth year at Kesgrave High, they surely weren't considering that? Then again, they were being very thorough this time. Maybe he was just making sure the ridiculous haircut staring back at him really belonged to the same person. Whatever, he eventually let me through.

The police, sorry, polizei, over here are far friendlier, their uniforms helping to make them look non threatening because they make them look like Boy Scouts. I fully expect one of them to help me across the road to earn some sort of football fan assisting badge.

Even in their rush to help though, the reputation of the English has clearly gone ahead of us. Peering at a rack of leaflets on an information stall, I drew the attention of a smiling female officer who gibbered at me in German about the freebies on offer. When I tried a vague attempt at using her language, her smile broadened.

“Ah, English! I have something for you, this leaflet here is in case you...in case you..”

Miss Coronation Street?

Need a way to find the latest on Big Brother?

Become desperate for a good cup of PG Tips?

“In case you have, you know, problems with other fans.”

My German's rubbish, but if I was more fluent I'd have told her that with a giant TV at every junction, and the sun beating down on the beer stands, I wasn't going to be any trouble today.

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