Wednesday, June 21, 2006

FEATURE: Life in a fan camp

By Nadia Samie

DORTMUND, GERMANY: Recently, I visited a fan camp in Dortmund with a colleague from Indonesia and another from Germany, to do a story on “the life of a fan”. To deal with the huge demand for accommodation during the world cup, hosts Germany have provided fan camps close to some of the 12 world cup stadiums for their guests from around the world.

Just some background on Dortmund: It is a formerly industrial area, famous for steel and carbon. It now houses one of Germany’s biggest football stadiums, where six World Cup matches will be played.

We arrived at the fan camp around 3-o-clock on a Saturday afternoon, and after checking in, we were given a yellow plastic bracelet that would identify me as a “fan-camper”. We were given a bed in the “mixed’ hall (there are three halls: male, female and mixed). After travelling for two hours, we were eager to dump our bags. As we walked into the hall that would be our base for the next two days, I immediately got the feeling that something was missing.

Doors! There are no doors in the place. Two-thousand-five-hundred people and no doors! Upon closer inspection, I realised that there were no mattresses or pillows either. It was going to be a long night…

We dumped our things and set out to do some interviews, following two newly arrived fan campers from Brazil from the reception desk to their beds, to witness their reaction, and what they said is not fit for publication.

Then we set out to watch a game in the fan hall, where a few big screens had been erected. Brazilian, Australian, Swiss, Swedish, English and Irish fans, consuming large quantities of beer, were amongst those watching the game when we arrived. It was the Brazil-Australia match.

Various entertainment was arranged for fans. An African festival had been arranged for the night we stayed over, live music from the likes of Mory Kante, Magic System and Vitamin X could be heard from the stage.

At twelve, my Indonesian colleague, Nita and I walked back to our beds. As we neared our section, without warning, the lights were switched off. Finding our way in the dark we went in search of the shower area, and then settled down on our “beds” for the night.

We couldn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was the uncomfortable stretcher-like “bed”, the lack of a pillow, the thought that all our recording equipment and belongings were practically out in the open, or a combination of it all. I finally fell asleep around 4.30AM. And that’s when the party animals decided return. What followed was a chorus of giggles, screeches and loud whispering.

At 8AM, as the rowdy party-campers slept away their hangovers, we made our way to the bathrooms again, eager to wrap-up our last interviews and say goodbye to the camp and hello to the comfortable beds in our hotel.


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