From June 9 to July 9 2006 Travelling Backflip toured Germany during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. This achievement was 3 years in the making and for our team it still stands as one of the most entertaining, intense and memorable months of travelling in all our trips. Germany is one of those unique countries that seems to be built to host massive sporting events such as the World Cup. The country has an extensive and widespread rail network that was running 24 hours a day moving spectators from city to city for all the games. As we proved, you could easily watch a game in Munich then hop on the train and 5-6 hours later be in Berlin for the next day’s game. Not many countries can provide that kind of logistical travel support for the millions of people that need to be shuttled around the country.

Not only was the rail network primed and ready for the masses of football supporters but each venue city, and most other major cities and towns across the country, had set up giant Fan Zones: big screens, food and beverage stalls and everything else necessary to get into the whole world cup atmosphere was on offer. Some of the more unique locations was a huge double sided floating screen in the middle of the river Main running through Frankfurt so people on both banks of the river could watch the games. Or the massive Fanmeile (Fan Mile) in Berlin that ran the whole length of the road south of the Brandenberg gate with screens set up throughout, hosting 1 million people on the day of the final.

As well as the Germans did in the set up and handling of this World Cup the football (soccer) was why everyone was there. The high level of play, intense home crowd and away fan atmospheres made it that much better. Our group was fortunate enough to have been able to see a number of live games; in total we saw 5 live games. The first was in Hamburg where Ecuador played Costa Rica in a 3-0 to Ecuador, quite possibly the most entertaining game and great to hear the fans chanting. The second game was seen by only one of us from getting a lucky one ticket draw to see Germany vs Ecuador in Berlin. The third game was in the newly built, specifically for this world cup, Leipzig stadium where Iran Vs Angola provided a super loud atmosphere. The fourth game was the one game our whole team had tickets to and we saw Ukraine vs Tunisia in the finals stadium in Berlin, not the most exciting game but good times nonetheless. The final game that again only one of us got to see was a Quarter final in Gelsenkirchen where England lost in a penalty shootout to Portugal. The Germans set up a separate field with big screens for the 40,000 plus English fans without tickets to the game that descended on the stadium. It was a heart breaking loss and one of the group welled up with tears from the emotion and a little too much to drink at the end of the game.

Separate to our live games was the countless hours (we estimate around 60 hours) we spent in pubs, bars, beer halls, fan zones and hostels watching the whole tournament. The best games for atmosphere were when Germany or England were playing, the Germans obviously as the host country had great support for their team with the country grinding to a halt for 2 hours while the game was on. The English fans are the most dedicated out of any country and they would arrive in the tens of thousands for every game to sing songs for their team, sing songs taunting the German riot police and to drink lots and lots of beer. The tournament was an unqualified success in terms of quality football on offer. With the host nation Germany doing better than expected and making it to the semi finals, the excitement for watching the tournament and being a part of it all never seemed to end.

There was plenty of drama throughout the knockout rounds (big surprise with Italy going all the way to the final), some of the more notable moments were when Wayne Rooney was controversially given a Red Card in their match against Portugal which caused the team to crash out of another major tournament. When Germany beat Argentina in a penalty shootout to reach the semi finals, the atmosphere was electric and caused widespread celebrating in the streets among complete strangers. The semi finals were packed with emotion: in the first Germany held on against Italy all the way to the 118th minute before Italy scored 2 goals sealing their path to the final. The other semi final game saw France beating the now vilified Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to the delight of the home crowd and large contingent of English fans. The stage was set for a classic final of France vs Italy and there was drama aplenty with French legend Zinedine Zidane losing his cool and headbutting an Italian player in extra time. After his red card the team fought on valiantly but ultimately lost on penalties sorely missing their captain.

The World Cup in Germany in 2006 was such a phenomenally successful event that it will be the bar standard in the modern era of heightened security and mass crowds. South Africa in 2010 has their work count out for them and it will be interesting to see what the tournament will be like on the African continent.