Posted: 6/18/2008


    I remember turning the channels in an hotel room, ignoring the pay channels etc, and trawling through the lousy free ones such as CNN, Animal Antics etc and finding Elephants playing a football match in India. No skill and slow. WELL that was just like watching Austria at EURO 2008. Slow, lumbering, devoid of ideas, skill and composure. Perhaps they should swop coach Joseph 'beppi' Hickersberger for a mahout with a stick-that's what they call the guy that looks after the beasts. I can't imagine them qualifying for any World Cup or Euros in the near future.

   There are 2 EURO 2008 mascots in red and white-I can't remember their names, so I will call them LOUSY and LOSER, after the Swiss and Austrian teams. I was in the Austrian capital WIEN for the Austria v Germany 'battle' . At the Westbahnhof station I was handed a little yellow key chain  from the post office, that when you squeezed it it shouted Tor, Tor, Tor, Krankl after the winning goal in CORDOBA, FIFA World Cup Argentina 1978 when the Austrians won 3-2 but left for home and Germany advanced. All the TV, radio stations, newspapers and T shirts were urging The Spirit of Cordoba. In 1978 I was in Cordoba and watched Scotland v Iran and Scotland v Peru before flying to Mendoza for Holland v Scotland the day before the 2 teams met. It was a recording of a famous radio report from an Austrian announcer, who later died of a heart attack while enjoying 15 minutes in a brothel-strange but true.

    Nobody seemed to mention 'the arranged' Austria v West Germany match at Spain World Cup 1982 in Gijon four years later. The West Germans scored early and then both teams played around to guarantee that both advanced and the luckless Algerians went out. I was at the match and it was an absolute disgrace. Since then FIFA and UEFA have made sure that all 3rd group matches are played at the same time.

    We went to the FAN ZONE in the centre of Vienna next to the Hofburg Palace. There is an exhibition of Tutenkaman and they have the 1400 BC Pharao's giant statue outside, dressed in an Austrian national team red jersey.  It got really crowded so next stop on the U bahn was Schonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, a spectacular place wilth zillions of rooms and some great formal gardens and the world's oldest zoo.

   Next to the The Nachtmark by the Karl Platz U bahn station with its great stalls of exotic fruits, breads, cheeses, meats, spices and even one stall selling about 50 flavours of vinegar. It's across from my favourite hotel, Hotel Drei Kronen and  a block from Cafe Anzengruber where my friend Tomi Saric and his Croatian born family run the best cafe restaurant in Vienna. It was packed to the rafters for the Germany v Austria match, and of course Michael Ballock relieved the tension with his wonder goal from 30 metres out for the less than satisfying 1-0 victory. guaranteeing second place behind Croatia.