I visited Germany to watch the World Cup quarter finals between England and Portugal on July 1. The game is played in Gelsenkirchen Stadium. Getting there is an experience.
My wife and I took the Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Frankfurt and change to a Lufthansa flight to Dusseldorf. We had some trouble in changing from the international terminal to the domestic terminal in Frankfurt. There were many flights handled at the airport. We were not familiar with the layout of the airport. We could not find any information helpdesk.
The workers at the airport, including tHe security workers, were very friendly and helpful. We only need to know Guten Tag (good day) and the rest of the conversation is handled in English. But, the workers had also to rely on the information screen, which may not display the information that is needed. And they are also very busy.
Getting from Dusseldorf to my hotel in Gladback West is another interesting experience. The most convenient way is to pay EUR 50 for a taxi ride. But my World Cup ticket allows me to use the public transport for free to the train station in Gladback West.
My travel agent gave the instruction to take the train from Dusseldorf Airport to Essen and change to another train to Gladback West. I should take 1 hour. They warned me that the change of trains is not so easy.
At the airport, I decided to take the cheaper choice and experience the German train system.
My first difficulty was to locate the information counter at Dusseldorf Airport. I could not find it. I followed the sign to the train station. I ask a passenger for information to get the train to Essen main station. She was not sure, but suggested that I should go to Dusseldorf main station and take the train from there.
This was a mistake. It took me 90 minutes to get to the main station, to find the right train platform and wait for the train to take me to Essen. The train from Dusseldorf train station had to return to Dusseldorf airport on its way to Essen. So, I wasted 1 hour travelling the wrong direction and back. From Essen, it took another 45 minutes to get to Gladback West.
After arriving in Gladback station, I had another challenge. There was no taxis available. There was no worker in the station. It was deserted.
Outside, I found another traveller who managed to telephone a taxi. He called his hotel, which despatched a taxi to pick him. I never knew that this is how one travels in a big country.
I did the same, and soon arrived in my hotel.
The total journey took more than 2 hours. We had to carry heavy luggage as well. But, the experience was worth it. I learned about the German train system and the friendliness of the people.
In the afternoon, I book from a taxi from the hotel to the stadium. It cost EUR 18 for a short journey. I asked the taxi driver for his telephone number, in case I need to call him back after the match.
The match between England and Portugal was exciting, but not unusual. A few billions fans could watch the live game over the television screens around the world.
The English supporters were fantastic. I met many of them on the train from Dusseldorf. One told me that 150,000 England supporters will be in and outside of the stadium. Those without tickets were willing to pay 1,000 EUR to get a ticket to enter the stadium.
They came in the colourful costumes. It was like a big carnival, with people having a great time. Many were singing and enjoying their beer or coke. Some came with spouses and children.
The stadium was amazing. It had a covered roof, with a confortable seat for everyone. All the seats are numbered. Everyone can watch a large TV screen located above the center of the field and facing the fans on all the 4 sides.
The stadium was full. All the 54,000 tickets were sold out.
The 2 hours of the game was an interesting experience. The English fans were most passionate. Throughout the game, they were singing the national anthem "God Save the Queen" and other familiar songs. At numerous points in the game, they shouted loudly "Send her victories, happy and glorious". This is accompanied by raising both arms in a warm gesture, accompanied by several tens thousand fans.
I sent photos of the small Singapore delegation at the stadium through MMS live from the stadium to my colleagues in Singapore. I added the remark, "Live from the World Cup stadium. 150,000 England supporters. 5,000 plus 1 Portugal supporters. "
I was confident that, in spite of the odds, the Portugal team will win. They work better and harder as a team. I had watched a few of their earlier games on TV, and was impressed by their playing style.
There was no score for 90 minutes and 30 minutes of extra time. Portugal attacked the England goal more often, but the England defence was quite strong.
Portugal won the game on penalty kicks. I give credit to the Portugal goalkeeper for a few fine saves.
The only sad part of the game was the disappointment of the England supporters. They gave their very best in passion, time and money. They came in full support of the national team. Even in defeat, they behaved graciously. A big salute to them.
I met a few Portugal supporters and congratulate their country. They are outnumbered by the England supporters, but it did not deter them.
Wow. It was a great experience. And Portugal won, in spite of being the underdogs. And the England fans won my admiration for their passion and spirit.
Tan Kin Lian
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