English & Germans fans seek tickets, find beer

BLOEMFONTEIN - England and Germany fans are converging on Bloemfontein, scrambling for accommodation, transport and tickets for Sunday's World Cup showdown but two things are not in short supply, beer and goodwill.

Despite the long-standing rivalry between the teams, which meet in a last 16 clash at the Free State Stadium, everyone was basking in the glow of South Africa's feel-good World Cup and had traveller's tales to share.

In the Reyneke Park camp site outside Bloemfontein, German and English flags hung from tents and camper vans.

"They started drinking beer early but it's a nice atmosphere. All are well behaved, no trouble," site owner Les Reyneke said. The bar had stayed open until five o'clock that morning.

For England fans, there was a rush to find places to stay in Bloemfontein as the team had been expected to top their group and stay in Rustenburg for their first knock-out match.

"The last two days have been crazy. The phone didn't stop ringing for five hours yesterday," Reyneke said.

Nick Falvi, a 30-year-old telephone engineer from West London, was lounging by the pool with his friends, veterans of previous World Cup campaigns in France, Japan and Germany.

"Cape Town was good, Port Elizabeth was good, Rustenburg was a disaster. They couldn't cope. Bloemfontein is...different. There's not much here."

Many England fans had exchanged tickets with United States' fans after the Americans topped the group, he said. Some had lost money on pre-booked flights and rooms.


Their main complaint was the cost of accommodation but they were loving their football safari.

"The people are great. The white people aren't so friendly as the black people though," Falvi said.

Fears that South Africa was a dangerous, crime-ridden place had largely not proven true, the fans said. Falvi said he had been held up at knifepoint at night in Rustenburg.

"It was my fault. I was as drunk as a skunk and I was told not to go there. It could happen in London."

As for the game, the English were confident of victory over a young German side, despite the fact that England made heavy weather of qualifying. It was what might come next - possibly Argentina - that worried them.

They were also scornful of Wayne Rooney's criticism of England fans for booing a dismal performance against Algeria.

"We've been working 24 hours a day to come here. All we're asking is 90 minutes of work," said Darren Gelding, a 40-year-old postman.

At the Loch Logan waterfront, German and English fans mingled. There was not the slightest hint of aggression of the sort that in decades past scarred the reputation of English fans.

Stefan Zundel, 30, from Berlin, and Katharina Lueth, 27, from Munich, both management consultants, sat having lunch in their Germany shirts.

"Unfortunately we're outnumbered now," Zundel joked. "But there's a lot of South Africans who support Germany. My impression is that the crowd here will be with Germany."

It would be a tough game, Lueth said, adding: "We'll win if it goes to penalties."

South African police have brought in reinforcements to guard against any outbreak of violence among supporters.

But Andrew Fleming of the English Football Supporters' Federation, manning a mobile help-point at the waterfront, said such ugliness was a thing of the past.

"A lot of people have worked hard to change things since the dark old days," he said."

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