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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 June 2006, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK
Bratwurst, pork pies and goodwill
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News, Frankfurt

England fan with emblem
The meeting gave fans a chance for good-natured rivalry
You wouldn't usually expect bratwurst, pork pies and Kendal mint cake to be on the same menu.

But this was not a party that followed convention or national stereotypes.

About 100 England and Germany fans got together at Frankfurt's oldest football ground, Germania 94, to mark the start of the World Cup with a novelty penalty shoot-out, followed by a sharing of national dishes.

It was organised by London England fans and the theme of the day was Fanfreundschaft, which means "fan friendship".

But that did not mean one of the fiercest rivalries in world football could be brushed under the carpet.

Flippers and dances

There was an appropriate nod to 1966 and "that goal" when each penalty participant had to first hit a crossbar. (For the English, the ball crossed the line.)

The contest also included donning flippers and mask for a "Klinsmann" dive, finished off with a Peter Crouch-dance.

The post-penalties party was equally surreal, with the local brew apfelwein sharing a table with English beer, rindswurst and Kendal mint cake, as Germany kicked off the tournament against Costa Rica.

Some German fans wore the England T-shirts they were given in their goody bag, which made for a very confusing scene when Germany scored.

Roger Muckle from Morecambe and German fan Michael Stefovic
The fan initiatives are a recent phenomenon

Organiser and football author Mark Perryman said the event was another step away from the dark days of being treated like a hooligan by the authorities.

"We are rivals on the pitch but we're friends off it.

"The Germans here are amazed because they know no-one else but the English would do this. But we do it out of force of circumstance."

What drives his group's determination to rehabilitate England's image is the memory of his first World Cup in France in 1998, which he describes as a "miserable experience".

Alcohol banned

After violence in Marseilles, the cities hosting England fans banned alcohol, the hotels were "full", the police aggressive and the French hooligans on the warpath, he said.

His efforts to promote friendship with Germany was well appreciated by Michael Gabriel, who belongs to a German group which promotes fan culture.

He said it was difficult to measure how important this kind of event was.

"We know about the political history of England and Germany, we know about the football rivalry and we know about the friction," he said.

Food at the event
Bratwurst and HP? What would Gordon Ramsay say?

"But this event is what football is all about - bringing people together and using football as a unique language.

"My experience of World Cups is very positive - meeting people from all over the world, learning about Argentine and African football fan culture, or the difference between Wigan and Preston."

Of course, England supporters have been mixing amicably with other nationalities for as long as they have played football against them, but these formal "goodwill" events, such as visits to schools and orphanages, are quite a recent development.

Some of those present on Friday were quick to stress that their competitive desire for England to win was not softened by initiatives like this.

'Mutual love'

And this was a point taken up by Andrin Cooper of the English Football Association.

He said: "The message from this is that dedicated and passionate support can go hand in hand with respect for our opponents. It's bringing fans together in their mutual love of football."

After several Germans complimented the pork pies, the guest responsible for them was revealed to be Gillian Ingham, 44, from Lincolnshire.

Sipping on her apfelwein, she said: "My local butchers in Kirton Lindsey makes the pies in his shop and I wanted to bring something unique to England, something that wasn't mass-produced.

"It's good to meet other fans, to show that England supporters aren't all hooligans. We're here to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the culture."

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