The Ball 2006, known for the first time as The Spirit of Football, embodied the motto of the 2006 World Cup: A Time to make Friends. Its short journey to Munich brought people together in the spirit of the beautiful game.
UPDATE: thanks to the Phantom Fouler for pointing out that it’s almost impossible to make out the title of the book that Phil fell asleep reading. So here the spoiler — it’s Hunter Davies’ I Love Football…
Phil calls us “media puppets” as we seek publicity for The Ball. I know what he means. We both find dealing with the press — whether tv, radio or written — difficult to say the least. But we both want to see this project (and specifically the idea of The Ball) propagate beyond our own circle of friends and beyond our ability to do it ourselves because:
(a) we’re not getting any younger,
(b) we may have too many other pressing commitments,
(c) whatever else may crop up in the unpredictable future.
Whether it does depends on the support we get from other people — and that requires us to make the best of whatever channels become open to us. So then, many thanks to Sheila at the Guardian’s World Cup blog for taking a gamble on us writing something coherent.
All Germans we have come across have been very welcoming and friendly if a little disinterested in the spectacle of the World Cup. We left England with a blaze of flags lighting our trail and are surprised to find little of that fervour over here. While the people beam with good cheer, football comes a gentle second.
At the World Cup 2002 in S. Korea, although they are predominantly a baseball-loving crew, an enormous effort was made to inform folk there of what to expect and as a nation they created a great stage for this diamond of a competition. Of course their team performed beautifully, albeit with a twist of refereeing fortune. The ensuing celebrations were extraordinary. It was youthful, beatles-style euphoria.
The importing of Hiddink as the national coach was a stroke of genius, so much so that they took his management style and used it over a business framework. Jürgen Klinsmann has the same opportunity for this Weltmeisterschaft 2006 but he lacks the national fervour to support the team with such natural exuberance.
We find ourselves now in Erfurt, a former East German town in central Germany, meeting folk who have never met English and also the well travelled hostel owners. A particular couple, one of whose grandparents was a member of the SS, we meet at a 5-a-side football competition, their reticence to talk to us was palpable. However we stayed with them late into the evening exchanging stories, playing more football, learning a new goalmouth training game, and parted company after they had signed our ball — and for the first time since The Ball has existed, we were asked to sign theirs. To hear one of the younger lads saying “thanks for the wonderful day” on leaving, is a heart-stopping moment for me. It’s a small world and a big cup.
All together now!
I am sitting writing this with the Spain Ukraine game on the telly, a Mexican, two Australians, one Japanese and myself are watching, communicating in three languages… that’s English, Spanish and Football.
Warning: this post is not intended for the technically-challenged!
Okay, I just can’t resist posting this — even though I haven’t been able to see the stream itself — but it really does promise to be what it says on the tinhomepage: “The best, most ridiculous, most redundant graphical implementation of ASCII!”:
A screenshot of World Cup action in ASCII (from mir.aculo.us, now sadly deleted)
Yes, now even the hardened of geeks can follow the action direct in their terminal application. One small problem, however, is that it seems to have been rather too popular:
As you may have noticed, we are completely overloaded at the moment… we already served more than a million telnet-connections and more than a terabyte of data. This is a free, non-profit for-the-fun-of-it project. However server upgrade and mirroring solution are in preparation. so stay tuned and thanks for the fish and the patience (you could play some football yourself while waiting :)
I’m going to follow that wise advice — shut down the computer, get myself outside and play some football!
Actually, that’s not entirely true — Phil’s on his way back home in a couple of days and whilst I’d love to carry on posting videos, it’s not going to be easy filming with a crew of, er, one. In fact, filming with just the two of us on the case was tricky enough. In essence, we’ve needed three days for every day of the trip — one to actually do stuff (the bit that both of us enjoy the most), another day to edit and upload the video of what we’ve done, and yet another to deal with the press so others might find out about (and hopefully see) what we’ve done.
Of course, I’ll do what I can (given the constraints), and I hope Phil will do the same from England — as it happens, I’m quite looking forward to seeing the contrast between what we post. The view from home and abroad so to speak.
The Ball comes to rest
What’s least likely to happen is that there will be any more of those “ball-bouncing-along” videos… partly because the journey of The Ball to the World Cup is over (it did, after all, reach Munich a while ago) and partly because I’d be passing it to myself… Still, it’s not impossible — we’ve met some lovely folks here in Erfurt and perhaps I’ll try and persuade them to help me sort something out.
I will be moving about a bit from now on, but I’m also quite keen for The Ball to stay here in Erfurt for some of the events which will be taking place round these parts during the competition. More on that when it’s a bit closer to the time.
It’s been good to recuperate after the trials of our intense video-blogging experiment — we got so run down from the constant effort and late nights that we both caught colds — and I now certainly feel up for a bit more host city action. Erfurt is great, as are the people in it, but it doesn’t quite compare to the mayhem of being in a host city, as we discovered when we went to Nürnberg yesterday for the England v. Trinidad & Tobago game. Once again, all I can say is “more of that later”…
It’s not so easy being on the road sometimes. I miss my partner Anna and her daughter Izzy — I can’t wait to see them again. In the meantime, this little video keeps me smiling. I haven’t forgotten about your flag either, Iz…
The shrub at the bottom of the garden
Before I left for Germany, I’d been thinking the shrub in the picture above might be better somewhere else in the garden. Anna sent me this picture of it flowering with bright blue flowers — as she had promised it would — so I’d look kindly on it when I return. Judging by the picture, I guess it’s fine where it is — for now! ;)