Coming homes

Mathias Kowoll leads us round the grounds that the home nations may or may not be visiting four summers from now

Does anyone remember Sir Bert Millichip’s al­leged promise to the DFB (German FA) that Eng­land would not bid for the 2006 World Cup because Germany had supported Eng­land for Euro 96? Well, Bert himself didn’t. But Franz Böhmert, the president of Wer­der Bremen, must have recalled it when he found out that the Weserstadion would not be one of the 12 stadiums sel­ected for 2006.

For years, he had been promised that Bre­men would be chosen if the club enlarged and upgraded the ground. They did, with consider­able financial support from one of Ger­many’s poorer cities. Yet when Hanover also decided to run, the DFB gave the north’s sec­ond berth (the first was reser­ved for Ham­burg) to Chan­cellor Gerhard Schröder’s home city.

It definitely wasn’t because Hanover had a better ground or more of a football tradition. But no one seriously expected those criteria to be the only ones employed. Leipzig, as the east’s second stad­ium (after Berlin) was chos­en for political and geographical reasons. The new ground has a 44,000 capacity, but the two local fourth division clubs, VfB and Sachsen, cur­rently aver­age gates of fewer than 3,000.

Of the nine venues used in 1974, only Düs­seldorf is missing this time. Further south, Stut­tgart, Nuremberg and Frankfurt are all respectable football cities (Munich was a bank­er) with more or less decent stadiums, but it wasn’t only politicians in the west who ques­tioned the inclusion of all of them.

The Ruhr is represented by Dortmund and Gel­senkirchen, of course, and Cologne’s slight­­ly white-elephantish rebuilt Müngersdorfer Stadion is there too. Fans all over Ger­many would probably have liked Mönchen­gladbach, with all its fine tradition, to be the west’s fourth venue, but the economic weight of the south tipped the balance. And, some might argue, the fact that the DFB’s president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder is from Stuttgart, and its head­quarters is in Frankfurt.

Overall, fans will get to see state-of-the-art grounds, most brand new or com­pletely re­constructed, some with breathtaking modern architecture, like Munich’s “rubber boat” (or “toilet seat” to Munich 1860 supporters). And only three with the infamous running tracks. What they will miss is the scent of history, the feeling that hundreds of matches were played here, that millions of fans have populated the stands, sweating, swearing and suffering. On­ly Kaiserslautern and Dortmund will give you that – and Berlin, but there it will be mixed with the stench of the Nazi Olympics of 1936. After long debate the council decided that the architecture there is worth preserving. So the old Olym­pia­stadion will keep its shell, which will then be filled with a modern stadium. It’s fair to say that Berlin football fans did not have the majority on the decisive committee.

One pick, or rather, non-pick, pleased al­most ev­ery­one. Leverkusen apparently hop­ed it would go unnoticed that their squeaky-clean BayArena, Germany’s only all-seater, holds just 22,000, well short of FIFA’s World Cup min­imum of 40,000. One stand consists of a measly ten rows of seats plus one giant glass-front of VIP boxes, a McDonald’s and a hotel. The organising committee didn’t fall for it, so Lev­erkusen withdrew. It may not have been because of the small capacity, however. Maybe they thought of all the Reeboks and Walkers Bowls in Eng­land and wanted to emphasise just who it was who had got the World Cup.

From WSC 184 June 2002. What was happening this month