Nick Soldinger's working week

15.06.06

Nuts has sent me to Germany to cover the World Cup. Volkswagen has given me the camper van equivalent of a space shuttle to zoom up and down the autobahn. I've got tickets for a few games, including today's match with Trinidad and Tobago and the endless sunshine makes me want to drink cold beer and watch football all day. That's what I love about Nuts, it beats working for a living.

I'm here with my partner, Judith, who's German, and our two sons, four-year-old Jake and one-year-old Joe. It's probably the most time I've spent with them since I climbed on to the Nuts rollercoaster two years ago. In the confined space of a camper van, my dad skills are being tested just as much as my ability to be the universal bloke when I go out to meet the fans, which is a big part of my brief.

I drive three hours from Frankfurt to Nuremberg for the Trinidad game. The first half is poor. As my attention strays, I notice Radio 1 breakfast presenter Chris Moyles, two seats away. At half-time I ask for a quick interview. He turns me down, telling me he's just been interviewed by a rival publication.

Ho hum.

The second half starts as badly as the first ends and the fans get on Sven's back, calling for Rooney to be brought out.

When the Swedish shagger brings the star on, England look a different team. The crosses start connecting, shots skim the post and then Becks swings one in and finds Crouch. Goal!

We may be minutes from the end, but the game is suddenly alive. This is the moment Moyles inexplicably chooses to leave. It's bizarre because you can sense something special is about to happen. And it does. Time slows. Everything falls silent. Gerrard picks the ball up 30 yards out and belts it. We gasp like kids at a magic show as it rips into the back of the net.

The whole stadium is buzzing and bouncing and screaming.

16.06.06

I file the story about Moyles missing the Gerrard goal and drive back to Frankfurt, which we're using as a base, because it's so central. After filing my daily blog for the website, I spend the day wandering around the city, chatting to sunburnt geezers in England tops, getting their photos and stories of beer-fuelled shenanigans for the mag.

I meet a gang of lads from Manchester who love Nuts, love the idea of being interviewed and won't let me go without buying me a drink or 12 to show their appreciation for "giving them a laugh every week", as they put it.

A table full of empties later I weave off into the night.

Miraculously I'm in my own bed when the baby wakes me up by bouncing up and down on my face. One of us smells awful.

I get up and change his nappy to make sure it's not me.

17.06.06

I have an idea to test the much-touted friendliness of German fans for a story. In the evening, dressed in my 1966 England top, I go on my own to a bar full of rough-looking German fans. I toy with the idea of goose-stepping up to the bar to see what reaction I get, but bottle it when a big fella gives me hard bloke stares. As it turns out, I escape unscathed, but not before one woman tells me: "Bobby Moore killed my grandfather!" Turns out the old duffer was watching the famous final on telly back in '66 and got so worked up he had a massive asthma attack and croaked! I tell her I'm sorry and we laugh about it over a beer.

19.06.06

I am in a campsite outside Cologne. We drove here yesterday as the sunshine was swallowed up by storm clouds. Since then, brutal thunderstorms have soaked everything and scared the bejesus out of the baby. I'm also having a nightmare keeping in touch with the office, because the site is so basic. Well, when I say basic, I mean it's basically a car park.

I've got no electricity, no internet, no mobile signal and no toilet. What we do have is an army of very noisy, very drunk Swedish fans. They keep us awake until 3am. At 5am a wasted Newcastle fan, who's rigged a PA up to his car battery, treats the campsite to a human beat-box version of the Dad's Army theme. Funny. For the first two hours.

20.06.06

We have nowhere to go, but decide to leave the site before I start a fight and get hurt. Judith agrees to find somewhere while I head into Cologne on the tram like an everyday commuter.

I spend the morning doing a behind-the-scenes report about Victoria Derbyshire's Radio Five Live show.

Impressively, they've built a makeshift studio on the balcony of a building overlooking the heart of Cologne. England fans sing endlessly below.

Wigan manager Paul Jewell drops in for a chat and spares me 10 minutes for an interview afterwards. Next in is former Scotland coach Craig Brown, who I also get to interview.

The star guests of the morning then arrive — comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. The pair couldn't be more different — Skinner all bonhomie and smiles, Baddiel aloof and sarcastic. After the show, Baddiel tells me, via his people (well, person), that he's too busy to speak to me. His person tells me to call later that evening to try arranging something.

It's not going to happen, I know it, but at that moment I couldn't care less. I'm more concerned about where the family and I will sleep tonight.

21.06.06

Watched the game in a fan zone in Cologne last night, did vox pops with wildly drunk lads, almost had my Nuts T-shirt ripped off my back by enthusiastic fans (of Nuts and England)

and got soaked with beer. Shortly after the final whistle, I figured I'd done my bit for the day and met up with Judith and the kids and we hit the road around 10pm. Two hours later, we were all snoozing in a field somewhere just outside Dortmund.

As I write now, we're belting down the autobahn heading for Berlin in search of my next story. The kids are screaming, it looks like it's about to start raining again and I've got a bastard wasp-sting on the top of my head. But hey, it definitely beats working for a living.

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