5
Aug 05

Allianz Arena, Munich

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Grassroots football nut Dave Boyle wrote an introblog on the Allianz Arena earlier this year. I visited last week to check he wasn’t making it up. The hosts were TSV Munich 1860 and they were playing Premiership favourites West Ham to mark the 40th anniversary of the Hammers first (er, only) European trophy.

I thought the flight would be full of replica-shirted thugs with hooped earrings and that dubious intellectual grey area between nationalist pride and blunt racism. They were nowhere to be seen. Until ten minutes from plane-off. It transpired they were relaxing in the Wetherspoons at Stanstead and were now beered up and ready for lift-off. It was 6.30am.

I’ve not visited Munich before. The city is more multicultural than I remember from previous German trips. On the outskirts is the Englischer Park. It’s huge and the weather was summer boiling. By the river lay the locals, lying on the grass, eating picnics and throwing frisbees. It was like a scene in any country, except they were all naked. Neatly packed piles of clothes sat beside them. It made sense on a hot day, so I joined them, stripping my clothes off and giggling as I soaked up the sun in fresh places.

The stadium is sublime. Faultless sightlines, plenty of leg room, big screens, crackle-free PA. The walk from the metro station is reminiscent of Wembley Way. The stadium in the distance like a giant tyre. Its chameleon skin colouring the sky from red to blue and then to white. The seats were comfortable, even though my pants were full of grass.

Cash isn’t accepted in the arena. You find a steward, give them some Euros and the balance is transferred onto a card. You queue up, buy your beer or fried animal innards and swipe your card across a beeper. There is a reason for this process. There must be, but it wasn’t readily apparent to the travelling eastenders. “You’re ‘aving a giraffe pal!” was the untranslatable consensus.

The game ended in a draw, meandering in typical pre-season fashion, overshadowed by the arena. In the morning I had to apply Aftersun to areas unfamiliar with the sun’s rays.

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