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Photo by "Times" (CC, Wikimedia.org)
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As long as FIFA honcho Sepp Blatter hasn’t had his wicked way and banned all competition to the official “Fanmeile” at Brandenburg Gate, then the city’s bars, beach bars and beer gardens are definitely the place to enjoy the 2010 World Cup.
The last World Cup four years ago heralded many changes in the way Germany watches and enjoys its major football championships. One was how German fans became unabashed about flag-flying in a way that had seemed impossible for so many years after, well, you know what.
Another difference was how the country embraced watching the games in public on a massive scale – a trend that continued into the European Championships two years ago. The best thing about that tournament was watching Turkey’s astonishing campaign to the semi-finals (even though the team was somehow only in the lead for a total of 11 minutes across all their games) in Neukölln, alongside some of the most passionate and knowledgeable football fans in the world.
And they were out in their thousands. Whether it was eating Köftes straight off the grill at the family restaurant, or in the company of shrieking thousands in a Biergarten, these communal viewings were an amazing way of enjoying a truly global competition.
Unfortunately, Turkey hasn’t made it this time around, but Berlin is, obviously, a multikulti city – home to diaspora of the many countries that will be represented. What better way to watch Greece vs. Argentina than surrounded by rampantly partisan fans and a steaming plate of gyros? Or, for that matter, Germany’s inevitable march to the final in a packed Kneipe brimming with the best beer in the world?
With the Republic of Ireland knocked out by Thierry Henry’s “Hand of Gaul”, Berlin will be missing the emerald hordes this year – so why not grasp a Guinness while you watch the French start their campaign under the shadow of sex scandals and the gaze of a boss who, mystifyingly, still consults his star signs rather than his star players.
Best of the group stages: France vs. Mexico – June 17
Where Berlin really comes into its own. The best place for real banter, a song (if you’re winning, at least) and a sausage, the city’s legendary Biergärten will be packed with bodies and screens as oversized as the beers. Guaranteed to bring out that famous English “hands across the oceans” mentality.
Best of the group stages: England vs. USA – June 12
Sit back in your deck chair, feel the sand between your toes and pretend you ain’t in northern Europe at all. Under Dunga, the Brazilians are less likely to provide the freewheeling “joga bonito” that the world tends to expect of them, so why not get all Latin you need from the Argentinians, who under Diego Maradona will either be spectacular and dashing or just schizophrenic and angry.
Best of the group stages: Argentina vs. Nigeria – June 12
An easy way to enjoy the World Cup. Pick an underdog, then pick a smoky, old man’s boozer and make it your partisan home ground: there’ll be table service, a spot in front of the TV and great beer in real glasses. In the “group of death”, North Korea doesn’t seem to stand a chance, so why not run with them? It will, at the very least, be entertaining and what’s the worst that could happen?
Best of the group stages: Portugal vs. North Korea – June 21
Find out for yourself how thorougly Germany has embraced the große Leinwand: get to one of the big screens as early as possible, then sit back and watch the painted faces and flags accumulate as the Nationalmannschaft makes its inevitable progress to at least the quarter-finals. Hey, if you can’t beat them...
Best of the group stages: Germany vs. Australia – June 13
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In expat-saturated Berlin, you can also enjoy the hospitality and atmosphere of other countries – and there’s nothing quite like being in the midst of a partisan crowd for a World Cup tie.
Click here for a full list of World Cup fixtures.