He's the United States' most wanted man, responsible for the 9/11 attacks and countless other terrorist atrocities. But aside from mass-murder Osama Bin Laden is also thought to be keen on soccer. There can't be many pubs and bars screening the Saudi Arabia vs. Tunisia game this evening in which Osama Bin Laden could show his face but maybe, just maybe, he'll be watching in his mountain hideaway all the same. Or maybe he'll venture out?
The idea sounds ridiculous, but it's not without substance. According to author Adam Robinson's book "Bin Laden: behind the mask of a terrorist," the bearded bomber is nuts about soccer. When visiting London back in 1994, Bin Laden is thought to have cheered on Arsenal F.C. at their Highbury stadium for at least two European ties, against Torino and Paris St. Germain. It is even suggested he bought his son Abdullah a replica shirt in the club shop after having been blown away by the Highbury atmosphere.
Arsenal fans can be forgiven for feeling the heebie-jeebies at the thought of sitting next to Bin Laden but a club fan site put a positive spin on the matter. Arseweb (sic) posted a message saying, "You may shudder at the thought of having rubbed shoulders with him back then, but Arseweb would like to believe that this makes north London ever so slightly less likely to become a target."
And, it doesn't end there. In a videotape released by the US Defence Department in December 2001, Bin Laden and his coterie make two references to soccer. Firstly Bin Laden recalls a prophesy that one of his own al-Qaida supporters relayed to him, "I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they were all pilots!" Secondly, another man on the tape describes to Bin Laden his experience of watching the 9/11 attacks on television. "The scene was showing an Egyptian family sitting in their living room. They exploded with joy. Do you know when there is a soccer game and your team wins? It was the same expression of joy."
Bin Laden was born and grew up in Saudia Arabia so he shouldn't have trouble knowing who to support. But Tunisia is also a Muslim country and Bin Laden might just be hoping for a draw. That way both teams have an outside chance of progressing to the next round and defeating the infidel once and for all.
-- Chris Bryant, 2.30 p.m. CET
Attack of the Faux-zilians
Berlin hosted the first World Cup match by defending champs Brazil on Tuesday night. The German capital was filled with the team's yellow and green supporters, but many had little samba to their step...
Broch looks like your typical German soccer fan enjoying the World Cup this summer. He wears socks with his sandals, his skin turns pink when he spends too much time in the sun and he drinks a beer while waiting in line to get a sausage. He's your stereotypical German fan, that is, until you see his canary yellow Brazilian jersey.
And it seems that Broch isn't the only one sporting Brazil's colors. Hundreds of Germans wore Brazilian jerseys around Berlin's massive fan mile before the city hosted the Brazil's match versus Croatia on Tuesday evening.
"I'm wearing a Brazilian jersey because they are the best team. I like the Germans, but they aren't the strongest. Of course, I would root for the Germans if they made it to the final, but I don't see that as happening," Broch said.
Considering Brazil was the team that destroyed Germany's World Cup dreams in the final in 2002, the affection for the South Americans is somewhat perplexing, but apparently most Teutons are comfortable with flexible loyalties.
Both Dennis Reschue and Danel Orebasch are German soccer fans at heart. They sported matching baseball caps of the German football team, but they also wore Brazilian jerseys. "The Brazilians play super soccer, why shouldn't I support them. I'm still rooting for the Germans, even though they are not the best team," said Reschue.
Still, with the World Cup being held on German soil this time around, German fans seem prepared to pick sides if it comes down to a repeat of the German-Brazilian final this time around. A highly unscientific SPIEGEL ONLINE straw poll determined despite all the paraphernalia, they'd still root for Germany.
-- Denise Terry, 9:00 a.m. CET
Berlin Bounces to Samba Sound
The first World Cup game in the German capital was always going to be something special. With Brazil firmly installed as everyone's second-favorite team, it was no surprise when more than 100,000 packed central Berlin to watch the game and enjoy the carnival atmosphere.
The game itself was a disappointment but this didn't dampen spirits one iota. Drummers and trumpeters played a constant musical accompaniment and though beer replaced caipirinha for the night, nobody seemed to care.
Fatima Goncalves, 27, from Rio Grande, Braziil and her friend Mamica Carneiro, 26, from Rio de Janeiro were celebrating their team's win. "The World Cup in Germany is really good - it's really well organised. The Brazilian team could do better but we won and now we'll be partying all night," said Fatima.
Julia Jacobi,20, a native German said: "Everyone is for Brazil this evening. My family comes from there. It's an amazing atmosphere. All Latin Americans are standing together."
Though everyone claimed to have at least one Brazilian relative last night (see previous post) so long as you were wearing green, blue and yellow, you were accepted as part of the samba gang. Fans crowded onto tables to dance to the drums and catch a better view. And when one table collapsed sending 10 people flying, they picked themselves up laughing and carried on dancing.
Michel Gomes, from Brasilia, spent the evening in a Ronaldhino mask, despite the heat. "The party is very good man. We're celebrating for all 190 million people in our country. It's like a dream to come here. We're a fucked up country politically and economically but tonight that doesn't matter."
-- Chris Bryant, 12:30 p.m. CET
Football is for Monkeys
Germany will lose to Poland tonight. That is, if spider monkey Bilbo, an "animal oracle," picked the right grape.
Just when you thought the football craze couldn't get any weirder: Some World Cup crazed zoo keepers in Chemnitz's Tierpark had a fun idea: why not let their animals predict the outcome of the World Cup games?
Since the beginning of the championships, several animals have tried their luck. Not too successfully, one might add. So far, only two out of five predictions have proved right - one by Emu "Speedy" in favor of Germany and one by a Kangaroo for an Italian victory. Both times, the food item in question was a head of lettuce.
Evidently, grapes do not seem to have the same power of prediction as salad does. The record shows that Bilbo and his tips are not to be trusted - his last pick favored Paraguay over England. A clear mistake, as England beat Paraguay 1-0. So perhaps Germany has nothing to worry about tonight.
-- Heike Westendorf, 6:00 p.m. CET