Euro 2012 Day Five – there was a Checkpoint Charlie

And, frankly, it’s become a bit of a tourist trap. In fact probably Berlin’s most outrageous tourist trap. Guards gurn in vintage uniforms and offer ‘visa stamps’ and photographs – for a price, of course. Every building within half a kilometre seemed to incorporate ‘checkpoint’ into its name somewhere – I lost count of the number of ‘Checkpoint Currywurst’ kiosks. Somewhat better was the adjacent Checkpoint Charlie museum – although at 12 euros a pop it was by some way the most expensive museum I saw. And while its collection of material relating to escape attempts and informative displays on wall life is impressive, the presence of a gallery devoted to a hagiography of German publisher Axel Springer and a vast display on the current and former role of Nato perhaps offers a clue to the fact that the excessive entrance fees aren’t the only place this private museum gets its funding from.

From the Checkpoint Charlie museum
There’s nothing wrong with that, and there was no sign of an agenda apart from a pointed dedication to freedom, a message that should resonate everywhere. But it does make you wonder what might have been left out.

The in-situ stretch of the Berlin Wall

Better was the nearby Topography of Terror exhibition, set beneath one of the last remaining in-situ pieces of the Berlin Wall and on the site of the former gestapo headquarters. It sets out in detail how the Nazis came to power and the consequences. But … and this is one way in which the Checkpoint Charlie museum does better than many others in Berlin – the story is told in geopolitical terms. It would have been interesting to read, hear and see what ordinary Germans had to say about the rise to power of the Third Reich and its impact. It’s too easy to see that tragic era in terms of broad strokes of history – it should never be forgotten that millions or ordinary people, through stupidity, greed, desperation or … and this bit has contemporary resonance … disillusionment with what was on offer from the ‘old’ parties turned to the Nazis as a solution.

The Olympic Stadium – still going strong after 75 years

Grounds for concern
And another thing – Berlin’s Olympic Stadium was built in broadly the same era as London’s Wembley stadium. Why is it London’s iconic stadium had to be bulldozed to make way for a concrete bowl with all the character of a Tesco store, while Berlin could refit the stadium to host the World Cup final?

Czechs bounce, Greece weeps
The Czechs were well beaten by Russia but came back strongly against the Greeks, who rode their luck a bit to grab a draw with co-hosts Poland. While they retain an outside chance of going through, it looks like Greece will be leaving the Euros even before it leaves the euro.

Political football
Euro 2012 isn’t exactly short of politically charged clashes – see also Netherlands against Germany last night – but they don’t come much stormier than Poland’s game with Russia. The street violence earlier in the day was sadly all too predictable, but the game itself was a cracker as the Poles played above themselves to get a draw that could so easily have been a victory. They now need to lift themselves and play as well again against the Czech to set up a potential quarter-final epic against the Germans. Which, happily, would be the game I’m going to a week on Friday!


Doing it The Blackpool Way

In tweets, on Facebook, in texts to my dad in Polska and in a variety of random, pissed-up conversations with complete strangers in dubious Barrow-in Furness pubs, I’ve made numerous references to doing it The Blackpool Way.

So what exactly does that mean? Well;

We’ve got little cash and a ground that has a stand borrowed from Royal Birkdale on one side.

We’re now the first team in history to reach the play-off final in all three divisions.

if we win a week on Saturday, we’ll be the first team ever to be promoted from the basement division to the Premiership purely through the play-offs.

We won 4-3 away against a side who’ve conceded just seven goals in 20 their last 20 home games and haven’t been beaten at home since they player… well… us in SEPTEMBER.

In a game where the pundits said the first goal would be crucial, we were one-nil down inside seven minutes

Our hat-trick hero was a man on loan from one of our play-off rivals, who was arrested just last month in connection with a stabbing, and who is still on police bail.

And our manager is a short, balding Bristolian, who, by most reasonable standards, would be considered certifiable. Yet he is one of the smartest and hardest-working people in football, who has just taken a team with little money and a shit ground to the brink of the Premiership.

And that’s why we never quite believed, until the final whistle went. And that’s why we still believed, even after going behind 12 minutes into the first leg. And that why we still believe that the impossible could not just be possible but, indeed, be only days away….

And that’s why Blackpool is the best club in the world to support. You can keep your Real Madrids, AC Milan’s, even your Manchester Uniteds. Blackpool – there’s nothing quite like it.

for an idea of what we were going through as Robert Earnshaw scored his second and Forest seemed to be in the ascendancy…. have a listen to this