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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
World Cup Crick - the diary
Crick on tour logo
What the term 'sexy football' was coined for
Newsnight's politician-botherer Michael Crick is in Germany for the World Cup.

Aside from his TV reports and technnically-challenged live appearances (on laptop-mounted webcam) he is keeping this diary.

It's Crick's World Cup - when played at this level it looks easy.

Closing the roof - 30 June

Michael Crick watching England in training
Michael wishes he had legs like that...
Forecasts suggest the temperature in Gelsenkirchen tomorrow will again be in the 30s, and we all remember how badly England performed in similar heat against Paraguay and Ecuador.

The weather has not been England's friend in this World Cup - nor the timetable, which has given England only one evening fixture so far (against Sweden).

But as the sun beat down on another scorching summer's day, there was one corner of north west Germany where it was positively cool.

As I watched England train for the cameras at the magnificent Arena stadium in Gelsenkirchen this afternoon, I couldn't help but notice how cool it was inside- great weather for playing football.

And we're told the roof will again be closed tomorrow. Boy, will it be welcome. Mind you, it's one fewer excuse for Sven if things all go wrong.

When football goes east - 29 June

Leipzig stadium
Leipzig - the closest Michael has come to a World Cup ticket
My trip to the old East Germany was partly to test one of the big selling points when Germany first bid to stage this World Cup - that it would bring east and west closer together.

The facts don't look good for the old East Germany. OK, the World Cup final will be held in Berlin, along with tomorrow's big quarter final between Germany and Argentina, but the Berlin Olympic stadium is on the western side of the old Berlin wall.

Only five World Cup games have been staged in the old East Germany - all in Leipzig, and Leipzig was the first venue to go out of this World Cup, having staged its last fixture last Saturday. Poor Dresden, almost seventy miles east, was left out altogether, despite being bigger in population than some World Cup venues in the west.

In the three eastern cities we've visited over the last two days we've found little of the hype and excitement found in the old West Germany. There are fewer German flags on cars and houses, and eastern shops are much less likely to exploit the World Cup in window displays.

Nonetheless, people in the east seem just as keen for Germany to win the World Cup. They're still glad the World Cup is being held here, but there's not much of the exuberant carnival in the west of the country.

Ballack

Football follows economics, of course. The old East Germany has fared relatively poorly since reunification, with one in five people still unemployed. There's only one East German team in the Bundesliga, the equivalent of our Premier League (and no eastern club last season).

Michael Ballack
The other Michael still at the World Cup - this one's from east Germany
German captain Michael Ballack may have been born in East Germany (not far from the Polish border), but no member of the German squad plays for an eastern club.

Big name sponsors are not attracted to the east. Without sponsors and money clubs cannot attract big stars. Without the players east German clubs cannot hope to compete with their western rivals from Munich, Dortmund, Bremen and Hamburg.

Hence the demise of the great, evocative names of the old Communist regime. The two Dynamo clubs, Dynamo Dresden and Dynamo Berlin, for example, are now in lower divisions of the German League.

Leipzig's ground was totally rebuilt for this World Cup. Yet this week, its fixtures now completed, and as its World Cup merchandise stalls were being pulled apart, the wonderful new stadium faced a rather bleak future, at least in football terms.

For the great Locomotive Leipzig, who once played on this site to crowds of 100,000, went bankrupt two years ago.

Frankfurt here we come - 28 JUNE

Today we've been driving to a town on the Polish border. It's a destination which arouses some merriment in our party, for this is a trip we very nearly made three weeks ago, albeit by what would have been a most unfortunate accident.

Michael in one of the Frankfurts
It's strangely quiet in Frankfurt...
In early May my producer Richard started to worry that we hadn't yet booked any hotels for our World Cup journey. The trouble was we hadn't yet worked out any itinerary and we wanted to keep things flexible.

Richard suggested it might at least make sense to book hotels where England were definitely playing group games - Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Cologne. We already feared, however, we might have left it too late, and had visions of us sleeping on some grubby park bench, in a smelly railway waiting room, or huddling together under an autobahn bridge.

We even had a small tent ready if the worst happened.

Anyway, Richard got to work on the internet, and a few minutes later announced triumphantly that he'd already found us rooms in Frankfurt.

What's more, he declared with satisfaction, the hotel was about a lot cheaper than he'd expected. Our cameraman Ian was a little suspicious, though, since the hotel's phone code didn't look right for Frankfurt.

Then Richard went away to check, and came back looking rather embarrassed.

He'd mixed up Frankfurt-am-Main, the famous European financial centre, with Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, a much smaller town a mere 379 miles to the east.

With the satellite navigation system on our van, where you just type in the destination and follow instructions, it would have been quite easy to end up by the Oder rather than the river Main.

That, I suspect, would have been a little hard to explain to editors back in London expecting a quick report for Newsnight on how England fans were behaving in Frankfurt.

Mind you, we might have found one or two England supporters as unburdened by intelligent thought as my producer. Out of pocket and miles from the action, they'd doubtless have been in combative mood.

Playing to the calories - 27 June

This morning the measurement was 78.6.

I refer not to the local temperature, the pollen count, or the number of yellow cards per game, but my weight in kilos.

The idea of several weeks in Germany, a land of so many food temptations (I hesitate to use the word 'gastronomic') threatened to cause havoc with my weight.

Bratwurst and chips
Bratwurst and chips - a smiling threat to the Crick midriff
Sausages, beer, dumplings, great chunks of pork, bread, apple strudel - all these hazards lay in my path, with little chance of being able to swim the calories off, let alone go for long distance country walks.

The only option was to bring with me my electronic scales, from which, for the last two years, I have been logging a reading every morning just before breakfast. And my scales are reassuringly accurate, always coming up with the same measurement no matter how many times I tread on them. And they measure me to the nearest tenth of a kilo.

Obsessive? Maybe.

But this monitoring regime works. It helped knock 15% off my weight compared with two years ago, though it's crept up a bit recently.

I was 77.6 kilos on the day we left England 22 days ago. I hit 78.8 kilos last week, but reached a low for this trip of 77.3 on Sunday, though I've eaten more salads than I'd really like, and have to go careful on the bratwurst, mustard and chips.

Market this - 26 June

Michael and gift shop window
"Will the budget cover a 230 euro World Cup nibbles tray for Peter Marshall?"
Stuttgart council has gone to the trouble of cutting its road-side bushes in the shape of World Cup footballs.

Hardly a shop in the city is without its own carefully-laid out World Cup window display or selling special merchandise. Cigarette lighters, coffee mugs, glasses cases, hand-bags, flip-flops, candles, you name it and it's here, though I've not yet found a World Cup souvenir I'd actually like to take home.

Our first hotel in Stuttgart was located opposite a sex shop (no, it wasn't a Newsnight budget cut, the area was quite smart). And even this enterprise has been using the World Cup to promote objects in its window which promise a rather more basic climax than football.

On the streets of the city a team of young reps from Benson and Hedges is out in World Cup T-shirts giving away free cigarettes. Their main target seems to be England fans.

But while thousands of businesses try to clamber aboard the World Cup bandwagon, a select 15 multinationals hope the tens of millions they've each invested to become official sponsors will quickly pay off.

FIFA has certainly given them special privileges in return. Hence the incident a few days ago when Dutch fans at the Stuttgart stadium were forced to shed their orange lederhosen because it was sponsored by a Dutch brewery rather than FIFA's official sponsor Budweiser.

It's Coca Cola soft drinks only in the Fan Fest areas, with mineral water at a whopping 2.80 a pint. If you tried to buy a World Cup ticket you could only use Mastercard, not Visa. It's the same story in the World Cup souvenir shops.

The irony is that from 2007 Mastercard is being replaced by Visa as one of its official sponsors. Indeed Mastercard are so upset that they are even suing FIFA for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade because they say the sponsorship bidding process was handled unfairly.

If Mastercard succeed in their legal action they might think of sharing some of their damages from FIFA with those fans who signed up for a credit card just to buy World Cup tickets, yet failed to get them.

Wimbledon weather - 25 June

While many England fans spent this weekend cooped up in a Stuttgart police station, I spent Saturday afternoon in a German fire station.

The small town of Steinenbronn, to the south west of Stuttgart, had cleared its streets for a summer fair, a rather more elaborate affair than your traditional English country fete, and genuine Germany. Stall after stall was selling every conceivable type of German sausage. The beer flowed; the band played; and it was exceedingly hot.

The town fire station had been cleared of its fire engines, and benches had been laid out so that everyone could watch Germany against Sweden on a big screen. OK, the picture was terrible, but it was a great atmosphere with local families all watching together, though the kids on the table in front of us hardly watched the game.

The only problem was the conspicuous silence from our part of the hall amid the explosions when Germany scored. But we were careful not to cheer either when the Swedes got their undeserved penalty.

England fans in Stuttgart
England fans dodge the flying beer before rain stopped play
England's game in Stuttgart took me back to those grainy pictures of the 1970 World Cup when it was so hot in Mexico that the games were played almost at walking pace, only the 1970 England side of Bobby Moore was a far more formidable force than the England of David Beckham.

After England fans had caused trouble on both Friday and Saturday night we feared the worst. An hour after England's 1-0 win, it was looking pretty rowdy in the main square, with fans throwing plastic cups half full of beer through the air. And our cameraman Ian got the one beer this weekend that he didn't want.

Then suddenly Stuttgart's police were rescued from on high. A huge thunderstorm erupted and the square was flushed free of England fans, beer and plastic mugs.

If Steinenbronn's firemen hadn't been otherwise engaged this weekend, I suppose they could have done the same trick with their hoses.

Michael's having a duvet day - 23 June

Back in London delivering commentaries for Newsnight films is relatively easy using a microphone above the desk in the edit suite.

Michael Crick holds a duvet over his head
How Michael plans to get into matches without a ticket
On the road, moving from one hotel bedroom to the next, it can be difficult to achieve good sound quality.

Hotel rooms can often sound like caves, or that I've been doing my voiceover at the bottom of a tin can.

On this trip I've sometimes addressed the bedroom curtains with my mike attached so as to muffle the echo.

But in my current hotel the room echoes so much, and the curtains are so thin, that the only method is to cover my head with a duvet.

All well and good but doing an impression of a 13 Tog ghost makes reading my script something of a challenge.

Inflated expectations - 22 June

Today's game between Croatia and Australia here in Stuttgart provides one of the most colourful encounters of the World Cup - a sea of red, white, yellow and green.

The Croats are almost universally clad in red and white checks. And a few Croats, for some reason I haven't yet fathomed, are carrying blow-up dolls, with red and white sausage balloons attached - without the aid of sticky tape.

Michael, and Aussie fan and his inflatable friend
"I'm sorry, you blow it up how?"
In reply, the Australians have a herd of inflatable kangaroos, and some female versions even have joeys in their pouches. But for one Aussie fan I met this afternoon carrying a kangaroo or a koala on his head was rather old hat. Instead he had wrapped himself in a blow-up duck-billed platypus.

England fans prefer provocative props to cuddly mascots. Before the Paraguay game in Frankfurt some enterprising business was doing a swift trade in inflatable Spitfires. Against Sweden, the fashion was old-fashioned British army helmets.

And among the England fans who've been gathering in Stuttgart today ahead of the Ecuador game on Sunday, were a couple of cocky young men wearing plastic penises on their noses.

Perhaps they're planning to get together with the Croatians.

Cutting edge - 21 June

Back on the road again after an evening marred only slightly by England's second half performance and the complete inability to get any of our cutting edge pin-sharp sound-perfect technology to work.

The words "have you tried turning it off and on" were heard more than once.

Michael perfects his Cosa Nostra look as the crockery flies
Michael perfects his Cosa Nostra look as the crockery flies
Brief stop-off for lunch in Mainz, for what was without doubt the most dangerous of our meals so far in Germany.

As an opera singer performed shrill warm-up vocals somewhere off the city square, jarring with some precision against the background din of roadworks, a fierce wind whipped up, crashing impressive amounts of tableware to the ground. Amidst the dumplings and flying glass, we beat a hasty retreat.

Next stop Stuttgart... for a while at least. Hotel rooms this weekend are few and prices stratospheric; so as England comes to town, we'll settle for somewhere near it. Again.

Old School England - 20 June

Invite England fans into your school?

You must be barmy, most head-teachers would say, but not Beate Weisbarth, the organiser of a fan friendship event at her school in the suburbs of Cologne this morning.

The supporters were introduced by the official FA band playing the theme tune to the Great Escape.

Michael Crick and two England fans dressed as Robin
England fans want to know why Michael is dressed so ridiculously

They then treated pupils to a rendition of "5-1 to the Eng-er-land", just to remind the Germans of the extraordinary result the last time the two countries met in the World Cup, in the qualifying game in Munich in 2001.

Gifts were delivered; the England fans tried teaching a bit of English conversation; and there was even an It's A Knock Out event involving the inevitable penalty shoot-out.

But I rather upset members of the FA band, I'm afraid. I know it was all meant to be a friendship event but the Newsnight reporter in me couldn't resist asking about that almost incessant Great Escape tune. Wasn't it a bit inappropriate, I suggested, given that the film was about an escape from a German POW camp?

My question was "out of order", the drummer Steve Holmes vehemently insisted, as if he were Sir Alex Ferguson trying to squash an impertinent young football reporter.

But the FA, Sven-Goran Eriksson and the British ambassador here have all urged fans not to sing their 'Ten German Bombers' song, and the theme from the Dambusters film is also discouraged by the FA.

What's the difference? I wanted to know.

The deciding issue, Holmes explained, is whether the original subject was fictional, like the Great Escape, and whether real people died. Not very convincing, perhaps, but I suppose you have to draw the line somehow.

Right flag, wrong city - 19 June

The last time I happened to be in Germany during a World Cup was in 1966 when I was just eight and my family came here during a round-Europe camping holiday.

The amazing thing is that it took us several days to learn of England's World Cup final victory over the Germans back in London.

Michael admire a house painted black, red and gold
And you thought flying a flag from your car was patriotic...
I don't remember many flags about in 1966, and indeed, ever since the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, Germans have been very wary of flying the flag, lest they be accused of a return to the kind of extreme nationalism which led to the gas chambers and the Second World War.

Suddenly in 2006 the black red and gold German tricolour has sprouted everywhere, waved not just by fanatical football supporters but many ordinary Germans. In a way it opens a new chapter in German history, where they can once again be relaxed about flying the flag.

Wrong city

Today we moved to a new hotel, ready for England's match against Sweden in Cologne on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Cologne proved to be prohibitively expensive so we are staying about 30km away in Bonn.

Which on the whole a good thing: our hotel does laundry and for the first time in 15 days I can go for a swim.

But, while there are plenty of flags and much enthusiasm in evidence, there's no getting away from the fact that we've come to the wrong city.

Does this shirt go with this kilt? - 18 June

It's confusing this World Cup.

This evening Munich's main square was suddenly overwhelmed by the sound of bag-pipes from a band of hairy, large men in kilts.

"Where are you from?" I asked after struggling through to the front of the crowd. "Munich," he said.

Michael and Kilt-wearing Scot
"Anyone but England" said this Scotsman (right) on a stag weekend
The band was Bavarian, though the piper I addressed spoke English with a strange accent which combined traces of Scottish and German. At the fan festival outside the old (1972) Olympic stadium in Munich yesterday I met a genuine Scotsman who had come to Germany on a stag weekend and was supporting "anyone but England".

We met Slovenes backing Brazil, Chinese supporting Italy, Irish rooting for Australia, a German waving the flag for Ghana, and a group of young Estonians wearing the St. George of England. "Our team has not been playing such good football recently," one of them explained, and by that he meant Estonia not England.

And I reckon that half the people wearing the bright yellow and green shirts of Brazil in Munich at the moment are not actually Brazilians. They simply wear them because they look cool, and Brazil is the fashionable team of the moment.

And yet, like England, and despite two wins from two games, Ronaldinho and his boys haven't really come up with the goods so far.

Perhaps they'll all be wearing Ghana shirts by next weekend.

Torture by text - 16 June

One of the minor hazards of being a TV reporter, especially in this age of e-mails and texts, is the constant bombardment of unsolicited messages. Now and then one gets latched onto by - how shall I put it? - an oddball.

Michael Crick with his mobile phone
Oh no - another curious message from Peter
Take Peter from Rhyl. Oh, if only someone would take Peter from Rhyl. He seems to have a fixation with a certain club from Merseyside, and tells me that now and then he even goes to watch them. And, he says, he's a journalist like me.

Peter even claims to have appeared on Newsnight himself in the past. Mind you, I find that you do get quite a lot of people making improbable claims like that.

Anyway, while I was busy editing my film after England's victory in Nuremburg last night, we were interrupted by yet another text from Peter.

Astonishingly, he was urging me - almost begging me - to point out in my script that both of England's goals were scored by players from his club.

Peter has sent us texts almost every day this week, often very long ones, painstakingly tapped out on the keypad of his mobile phone. Frankly I'm surprised that his employers don't crack down on this misuse of staff time.

Peter has even resorted to sending us his favourite football chants, suggesting I might incorporate them in my reports. Some, I accept, are quite witty and clever, in the familiar scouse scallywag kind of way.

Although I'm no psychologist, they do though seem to betray a slight persecution complex and an inner need to be treated as important.

Again and again he includes strange lines about doing it "five times" and something about "the last time in Istanbul". What can all this mean?

Michael's not melon-choly - 15 June

Filing late after the drama of England's barely deserved win against Trinidad and Tobago.

Michael Crick bites into a slice of melon
Another Crick melon-drama...
The picture shows me before in the fans' viewing area next to the remains of the half-built Congress Hall started by the Nazis in the 1930s.

Never before have I seen strawberries (but no cream, alas) on sale outside a football match, let alone watermelon. It was a welcome relief in the heat, and gave me a huge smile, but the red juice dripped liberally onto my neatly pressed and laundered orange shirt.

Still, the stains were hardly likely to show on the live webcam broadcast, where fuzz isn't referring to the local riot police.

Just as I took to the air we were approached by a curious Scotsman dressed in German faux lederhosen who claimed to be supporting England!

Much to my relief - and my colleagues' disappointment - he did not try to give Jeremy his view of the game.

Smalls matter - 14 June

Day three of our search for a launderette or laundry looked like being even more frustrating and infuriating.

Last night a helpful girl from the organisers at the fan camp gave us an address near our hotel in Luenen.

Michael's quest for clean clothes
"Please, I beg of you - I just want some clean socks"
But when we found the place this morning we were told it would take until Friday - all something to do with today being half-day closing and tomorrow being a bank holiday. The trouble is we hope to be somewhere between Nuremberg and Munich by Friday.

Then I had an idea. In broken German we tried two of the chambermaids at our hotel, brandishing two large euro notes - to an amount which would have horrified our friends in BBC accounts.

But the chambermaids gave such a look of terror that they must have thought we were asking for a far more indecent service even than washing our laundry.

Another launderette round the corner proved just as unhelpful as the earlier one, even when the two large notes were waved once more. I can only assume that laundering is a serious offence in Germany.

Rescue at last from the wonderful Ursula in the World Cup media lounge in the centre of Dortmund. She got a colleague to ring round and find a laundry which would do us by 6pm this evening.

Clean clothes on the way. Mind you, we've not seen the bill yet - by tonight we could be cleaned out of all remaining funds.

Michael's Beautiful Laundrette - 13 June

The quest for a laundrette continues.

We thought we'd found one in Luenen where we are staying, around midday today, only it had closed for lunch.

When we went back this afternoon the woman in charge said our clothes wouldn't be ready until Friday, by which time will have moved on at least a couple of times. We mentioned the word "express", but nothing doing.

Michael at the Luenen 'Fan Camp'
'Fan Camp' - popular with Swedes, Swiss, Togolese and Cricks
One gets to see why the German economic miracle isn't what it once was.

Anyway, if any readers know of a good - and quick - launderette in Luenen we'd love to hear from you.

Tomorrow's game against Germany here in Dortmund is a crunch fixture for the Poles, but when we visited the official fan centre this afternoon it was almost totally deserted.

Apparently most Polish fans will arrive by car and train tomorrow on day trips. Those that are already here, we were told, "are sleeping in fields or under bridges", which may cause them a few problems as heavy rain is expected here tomorrow.

The fan centre provides a mattress in one of its huge dormitories for 40 Euros a night. Apparently it was much more popular with the Swedes when they played here last weekend. But the most bookings they have are for Switzerland against Togo.

Flashpoints - 12 June

Michael in his new hotel
Michael has changed his hotel... but not his shirt
Today we've been travelling up from Eisenach in the centre of Germany, to Dortmund, where Germany are due to play Poland on Wednesday. If the Poles lose to their western neighbours and historic foes, then they're out of the World Cup.

Polish fans these days have a reputation for being what England supporters once were - the most violent in Europe. German police fear a serious flashpoint here.

Our hotel's just north of the city, in the suburb of Luenen. As well as cutting tonight's report, a key concern is finding a laundrette as the hotel doesn't provide a cleaning service and we've been on the road a week now.

Editing in a cramped hotel room is in danger of taking on an unwelcome dimension.

Iran protests - 11th June

Protesters

Saturday I was too busy with England's game against Paraguay to file a report but today, Sunday, we travelled south-east from Frankfurt to Nuremburg where Iran were playing Mexico in group D.

Early afternoon around three hundred Jewish people were protesting in the main square against the presence in town of the Iranian vice-president, and the possibility that President Ahmadinejad himself might come to Germany later in the tournament.

Most Iranian fans in Germany seem to be exiles living overseas rather than supporters of the Islamic revolution who have travelled from Iran. The Nuremburg World Cup venue stands beside the remains of the old Nazi Party rally grounds where Hitler roused his supporters in the 1930s.

The old field where up to 250,000 Nazis cheered their Fuhrer in adoration were today occupied by fans' coaches and a first aid centre. The Jewish protestors would not have been pleased to see a huge Iranian flag draped from the grandstand, though the fans who hung it here may not have appreciated the historic significance.

Kick off carnival - 9th June

Michael in Frankfurt's main square

The main square in Frankfurt has been in carnival mood for the last 24 hours with England fans kicking balls around, signing signatures on a bus covered with a St George's flag and drinking the odd litre of beer, or six.

We're now off to the big game, between a team of British MPs and the Hesse Parliament.

That's before the opening World Cup game between Germany and Costa Rica, two of England's possible opponents if they reach the second round.

Tickets and technology - 8th June

Michael Crick in pictures
Here's our cameraman/editor Ian Pritchard and myself editing tonight's first film from the World Cup, in which we focus on the fans' search for scarce tickets for Saturday's match against Paraguay.

We talk to a self-styled "ticket procurement consultant" who offers to help get tickets for any game - at incredibly high prices.

Today I was out with the British uniformed police officers stationed here, and couldn't resist asking if they knew the German for 'Let's be havin' you.'

We've spent much of this week getting our new hi-tech equipment to work. With luck I should be able to do live broadcasts every night from almost any location, using a webcam perched on top of my laptop. Another first for Newsnight.



SEE ALSO
Crick on Tour - the science bit
12 Jun 06 |  Newsnight Home

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