Germany's Berlin fan park almost deserted for World Cup quarterfinal
Four years ago, two days after the final in Rio de Janeiro, over 400,000 people welcomed Germany's World Cup-winning squad at the Fanmeile Berlin. Situated between the capital's iconic sights, the Brandenburg Gate and Siegessaule, it has been one of the main attractions during big tournaments ever since the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when over 750,000 fans followed the round-of-16 match between the hosts and Sweden.
On Saturday, Germany were expected to meet England in the World Cup quarterfinals, but after the Nationalmannschaft's early exit at the group stage, only around 3,000 people turned up to watch England vs. Sweden instead. Thirty minutes before kick-off, the area in front the main screen was empty.
Germany had made it to the semifinals of every major tournament since 2006, and everyone with a stall at the Fanmeile banked on that continuing. But as the Nationalmannschaft now tries to overcome one of their biggest disappointments, there has been a severe decline in sales. Especially, the Germany merchandise is largely ignored by those still attending the games.
There are no queues at the beer and food stalls. The Weltmeisterbowle, a punch bowl in Germany's colours, is not attracting a lot of attention. Promoters who run the Fanmeile have insisted on their contract being honoured, the merchants have paid their fee for the duration of the entire tournament. While they have reduced the capacity of the fan park, the 2 kilometres between Siegessaule and Brandenburg Gate still remain closed for traffic.
For the England vs. Sweden match, the majority of the people watching are on holiday from the United Kingdom. Says Rob from London: "I am here on my stag do. And this is my outfit. It could really be worse, couldn't it? I'd love to see it coming home!"
Siblings Gudrun and Ralf from Berlin follow the match on the last of the three major screens. "We've come here to watch football. It would have been great to see England take on Germany today. But it was not to be. Still, the weather is nice, and we actually enjoy it here. So much space. We also want to show our support for the promoters. We don't want them to go bust."
Patrick and Andy also hail from Berlin, but the former was born in the Baltic Sea town of Rostock. From there, it's only a short ferry ride to Sweden. He says: "I wear the Sweden outfit because I can. I love to go on holiday there. And I am quite an attraction when I drive through the country with my Trabi, one of the last to be produced back in 1990. I am just three weeks older than my car. I really like Sweden. And that's why I support them. It's good coming here. The atmosphere here is still good."
Nimsy, Leo and Arturo have come to Berlin all the way from La Piedad, Mexico. "We are on vacation here. We are exploring the German capital. And we really like it. We wanted to watch football, and, sure, we hoped for Mexico to still be around at this stage. And it's a shame Germany are already out of the tournament. It would have been much better here if they were playing. But we like it."
Lucy, Albert and Kirsty are in one of the front rows. They ask: "When is Germany playing next?" The answer: September.
As England get closer to the last four, the people become more excited. Can 66 be replaced with 18? This jersey could be in need of an update next week.
Sertac is a Swede who resides in Germany's south. Cameron from London is on holiday with his father and brother. He says: "We were walking around Berlin, looking for a place to watch the game. We found the Fanmeile. I enjoy it here. We'll be returning home soon, and it might follow us on Sunday."
Sertac says: "I've come all the way up here from Stuttgart. I wanted to experience the Fanmeile. It's a shame that there are not more people here. But Cameron's a nice lad." They exchange numbers.
Bernd from Berlin got a front-row seat. "I've been an England supporter all my life," he says. "I want them to win it." As the clock ticks down, he gets out a cigarette and behind him the England fans prepare for a party.
Scenes as England qualify for their first World Cup semifinal since 1990. "England's on fire," they sing and dance. Several England flags are on display. It has been a good day out.
Kieron and Andrew from Exeter are quite pleased with the outcome. "Dele Alli? Can you tell me a bit about Dele Alli?" they ask. "We've got our hotel close to here. We are on a stag do," they say and walk off into the night.