'UNTERWEGS'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 July, 2006, 12:00am
 

Berlin: The heavens have opened up with a vengeance over the German capital, and indeed the rest of the country. After a month of sunny skies, the weather has taken a turn.


It is almost as if the gods are mourning the end of the World Cup, too.


But Jorg Janssen is a realist. He scoffs at my suggestion that they are crying up above. He says neither man, nor the gods, will remember all this jazz which has taken place over the past few weeks.


'In a couple of weeks, no one in Germany will be thinking about the World Cup. The people here will have forgotten all about it,' says Jorg, a taxi driver-cum-philosopher. 'It might have been different if Germany had won the World Cup. But now, I'm afraid it will soon be just a memory.'


He must be right, I think, as I walk along the streets near my hotel before tonight's final between Italy and France. Everything and everyone is low-key. The German public still seems to be getting over its disappointment and shock at losing to Italy in the semi-finals.


And to make matters worse, the national team had to come out again and play in the nonsensical third-place play-off against Portugal last night. This is a most ridiculous aspect of the tournament - asking the losing semi-finalists to turn up a few days later in a meaningless match.


No wonder German captain Michael Ballack sat out the match, saying he was injured. Do you think he would have done so if Germany had been in the final? The players will be going through the motions. They should be spared this absurdity by Fifa. Who remembers who finished third last time? There are no prizes for being third-best, or even second-best for that matter.


But it is one more match which translates into more money for Fifa and the organising committee. So never mind the feelings of the players, or the scepticism of the media.


Jorg might be right that soon this will all be a distant memory as Germans get back to reality. 'This will be like a dream. Soon we will forget it when we remember our mortgages, or paying the ever-increasing taxes, which are a result of reunification and paying for the development of East Germany,' says Jorg bluntly.


'We were a rich country. But things are becoming harder every day. This last month has been a welcome distraction. But soon we have to get back to facing life again,' he mutters.


I bumped into Jorg at the 'Bar of a 111 Beers' in Berlin. He seemed to have gone well past the halfway mark as we sat there talking about life. I tell him he is wrong about one thing - Germany forgetting the World Cup.


Franz Beckenbauer and the organising committee of the 2006 tournament have offered their expert advice to South Africa, which hosts the 2010 event. This offer has been readily accepted by Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa.


In Berlin for the final, Mbeki revealed the World Cup coming to Africa for the first time would represent a huge challenge for his country.


'Franz Beckenbauer and Germany are fully committed to coming and helping us. And we need them to help us,' said Mbeki.


'It will be a huge challenge for us, but I'm quite sure we will be up to it. We have made a commitment to Fifa and we will uphold that.'


It is still raining hard outside. The inclement weather has forced organisers to cancel the concert 'Football for a better World - from Germany to South Africa'.


Having nothing better to do, I sit with Jorg and sink another Bud - not the American Bud, but the original Czech variety, according to Jorg.


I wonder what sort of beer they drink down in South Africa. I ask Jorg if this Bar of 111 Beers has any. He scoffs at my ridiculous question - and tells me to wait four years.


Number of the Day: 1,600


This is the number of volunteers from 150 countries who have been involved in the smooth running of this tournament. They are the unsung heroes of the month-long soccer celebration.


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