Work needed someone to cover the Champions League final in Munich, and so naturally, as a non-German-speaker who hates football, I was chosen for the job. It was a long, grinding day yesterday – up at half-five for a flight and working till about three o'clock this morning.
I have never been to Bavaria before, and my impression of it from driving around in the countryside has been all thick grassy fields, families on bikes, villages dominated by cycle paths, and a general air of contented functionality beside which France looks quaint and England just shambolic. Munich itself has the feel of a big village, although it's only really today that I'm getting to explore – yesterday was given over to tracking down picturesque Chelsea fans, my particular job being to cover fan reactions on the streets.
I came out of the tube at Odeonsplatz in blazing sunshine around lunchtime, and immediately heard the telltale tuneless slurring of an English football chant emanating from a nearby street-bar. I ambled over to find plenty of the kinds of people you expect to see – fat lads with their tops off, clad only in spilled beer and Chelsea FC tattoos, clutching plastic steins of lager and chanting London-inflected strings of triphthongs at each other in the sunshine. I had expected the usual ‘One World Cup and two World Wars, doo-dah, doo-dah’, but apparently that's very passé now, football chants having moved on a bit since I last noticed them. When I arrived the entire bar was three verses into this:
There were ten German bombers in the air (in the air!)
There were ten German bombers in the air
There were ten German bombers
Ten German bombers
Ten German bombers in the air (in the air!)
Then the RAF from Chelsea shot one down (shot him down!)
Then the RAF from Chelsea shot one down
Then the RAF from Chelsea
RAF from Chelsea
RAF from Chelsea shot one down (shot him down!)
There were nine German bombers.... (etc)
Despite the questionable historical accuracy of this ditty, and others like it, the whole town centre was soon alive with terrace songs of one form or another. It was an impressive, though sometimes depressing, spectacle. All across the city, mobs of sunburned fans would spontaneously break into chorus, the favourite seeming to be this Lord of the Dance reversioning:
Wherever we may be
We are the famous CFC
And we don't give a fuck
Whoever you may be
Cos we are the famous CFC
That one seemed strangely popular with the locals; perhaps they associate the tune with something else entirely. Another one that seemed to be everywhere was this, to the tune of The Entertainer:
Double, double, double
Jo-ohn Terry has won the double
Double, double, double
Jo-ohn Terry has won the double
And the shit from the Lane
Has won fuck-all again
Cos John Terry has won the double
The Lane is White Hart Lane, home ground of archrivals Tottenham Hotspur. Get me with my footy knowledge. And the double is a reference to the fact that Chelsea won both the League and Cup finals in the same year, or something like that. The stress scheme is a bit awkward, and the lyrics are very repetitive, and the less said about the rest of it the better, but there you go.
A lot of the fans had bunches of celery on their tables, and a couple of them were wearing sticks of it behind their ears. I asked what this was all about during one vox pop, obviously showing my total ignorance of the club football world, but the overweight gang I was talking to graciously explained by leading the pub in a bizarre but apparently well-known chant:
If she don't come, we'll tickle her bum
With a lump of celery
...at the climax of which, handfuls of the popular vegetable were thrown, hatlike, into the air, to promptly rain down on some confused Münchner bystanders.
Well a couple of hours of all this gave me plenty of pictures to send out to clients, so I cabbed it back to the office at Olympiapark, edited, uploaded, and went for a walk in the park while I waited for the match to start. I bought a beer from a stand by the lakeside, drank it on a hill, and fell asleep in the grass for an hour or so, lulled by the sound of a nearby goose and of a contingent of Bayern fans dancing to Robbie Williams.
I watched the first boring half of the match on the telly in the office, then caught the U-Bahn, or is it S-Bahn, I can never remember, back into town to look for reactions to the end. I found a likely-looking bar so full of Chelsea fans that they had spilled into the street outside, where they had set up a kind of temporary colony of chanting morons. Knots of polizei with riot helmets waited calmly a few feet away, looking a bit embarrassed on behalf of the visitors. Chelsea went a goal down deep into the second half, but then equalised a few minutes later, sending the crowd I was with into paroxysms of ecstasy manifested by setting off flares, burning a flag, throwing beer in the air (and all over my camera), and generally jumping around like the moshpit of a thrash metal concert. Whatever the fuck thrash metal is, I don't know, I'm balls-deep into my thirties here.
A drunk 40-year-old skinhead in a grey suit, with a gash across his extensive forehad, loomed out of the crowd, grabbed my camera and said something like "What the fuck's all this then, eh? The noos? The fuckin noos?" I wrestled my kit back off him and carried on, but he was more in the mood for a fight than I realised, and started shouting in my face a mixture of insults and incomprehensible bollocks– "Are you lookin for some? You wanna get your head kicked in? Are you a cunt? Are you? Are you a poet?" I denied both these allegations calmly (although I did want to ask him about this poet business) and stepped diagonally backwards a couple of paces until he could see the waiting police just behind me. He fucked off, but it had shaken me up quite a lot, and I decided to wander up the road to look for another bar where the atmosphere was friendlier.
By now the game had finished 1-1 after extra time, and I positioned myself precariously on top of a pub table outside another bar to film the crowd's reaction to the ensuing penalty shootout. I was hoping against hope that Chelsea won, not fancying my chances of avoiding the inevitable fighting that would result if they lost. Amazingly, Chelsea did in fact win the shootout – I could tell because suddenly the Theatinerstrasse had exploded into a mass of bouncing, screaming English fans, waving their shirts around their heads, crying with joy, singing at the tops of their lungs, beating their chests, and generally acting as though they'd all just been shot through with 40,000 volts. I tried to get some soundbites, but I couldn't get through more than 10 seconds of any interview without 15 people jumping in front of the camera and screaming hoarsely at me, so in the end I just surrendered to the moment and filmed all the fans whooping as though they'd had anything at all to do with what was a very lucky victory. After about an hour of that, with fans half-naked running out along the tram tracks through the town centre, or yelling obscenities at local girls, I couldn't bear it any longer and I squeezed on to a train heading back to Olympiapark to file footage by about 1:30. Finally I regained my car and drove back out of town to my hotel. Got to bed around threeish.
Now, the streets and squares of Munich are full of litter, hungover Londoners, and bikinied locals becomingly acquiring a weekend suntan. The shops are closed, but I am heading for the Alte Pinakothek, which has an excellent collection of Flemish Masters that I particularly want to see.
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- Current Location:Germany, Bavaria,Regierungsbezirk Oberbayern, Munich