EURO2008 City Scenes: Austria Survived, Just About – A Chat Review

15 06 2008

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Poland_-_Austria_%2802%29.jpg

Photo: Polish supporters in Vienna; not to be confused with Austrian supporters, who dress red-white-red!

The final crunch test for the Austrian team approached on Thursday, June 12, 2008. Having lost against Croatia the Sunday before (0:1, though with a strong performance in the second half), another loss would have meant the end of the Austrian participation in the tournament. Would Austria’s fate that evening as its co-host Switzerland the day before?

Fate had another path that night, though for long stretches of the game it seemed that the end of Austria’s EURO2008 dreams of reaching at least the semi-finale was rather unlikely. If your German is good enough, you should read the lovely commentary by my colleagues of kick08.net on that game; some of them were actually watching the game live at the Ernst-Happel-Stadium. According to the writer, there were four acts to the day and the game, with an unknown enthusiasm (Act II) from the Austrian fans for their national team, for about the first 30 minutes. Their attack skills in particular captivated the fans – the execution of scoring evidently less, because no goal was scored then. A picturesque passage I would like to quote here (in my English translation):

“Team and Fans became one, the emotions on the pitch and on the echelons merged to one collective though of the sea of senses and yearning for the first success in red-white-red at the European Championship emerged with every attack yet again to a national football delirium.”


As an Austrian I have to admit, I did not follow the game in the stadium, nor on any of the public screens or on television at home. Instead, I was in constant contact with a good Croatian friend on MSN Messenger while following the live chat on derstandard.at. On the excellent online version of the quality newspaper, each game played will be live commentated by a guest commentator, and registered readers can join in. Some of the prominent guests have included Defense Minister Norbert Darabos (Czech Republic vs. Portugal), Deputy Green Party Leader Maria Vassilakou (Greece vs. Russia) and the writer Franzobel (Netherlands vs. France).

That evening, derstandard.at provided Peter Menasse, Communications Adviser and magazine editor. In a number of chat comments Menasse expressed his impatience with the Austrian Team quite a few times at the beginning (“We could have led 3:0 by now). Neatless to say, the first goal scored by Poland in the 30th minute he just stated towards Austria: “Kindermannschaft!” (Children’s Team!).

In the break, the comments kept pouring in, and one of the viewers/readers concluded that “… the goals one does not score, the others do get them! Or rather have gotten them already…” And Menasse concludes that Austria evidently has “the better team but no goal scorer. But we knew that beforehand” (German original: Wir sind die bessere Mannschaft, aber haben keine Torschützen. Aber das wussten wir vorher auch schon). That was the point when my Croatian friend said on the Messenger that only a “Croatian player can rescue you now… lol.” And indeed, the 90+3 minute, Ivica Vastic, scored the desperately needed equalizer…

So, Austria has stayed on, just about. The final test is on Monday, June 16, against Germany. Austrian Fans are confident to repeat the sensation of 1978, Das Wunder von Córdoba (The Miracle of Cordoba), when Austria beat Germany 2:1 with the Miracle of Vienna 2008. When I was traveling on the underground U1 today I overheard a heated argument a Viennese person had with a friend on the phone, encouraging him to join tomorrow’s rallying for Austria in the city center before kick-off at 8.45 pm: “We gonna throw them out tomorrow, oh definitely!” he exclaimed at the end. But that miracle will only happen – according to some of the chatters on derstandard.at, if someone “kicks the b*tt of [Austrian Trainer Josef, sic] Hickesberger” -ouch!

While Vienna has survived the so-called ‘Croatian occupation’ (Sunday, June 8 ) and the ‘Polish invasion’ (June 12), the city prepares for the ‘German conquering’ ahead of tomorrow’s game. So fare, the city center is quiet, and when I walked from Stephansplatz down Vienna’s main shopping street, the Kärtner Strasse, to the Staatsoper in late afternoon, the pedestrianized area was busy, but mainly with tourists, it seemed. Some chanting was going on further down the street, but unrecognizable whether in support of Austria or Germany.

The German supporters are rare here, however, a growing crowd. Right in front of St. Stephens Cathedral I notice a small group of them with their punk hairstyle colored in their national colors: black, yellow and red, peacefully mingling with tourists leaving the Cathedral. When I pass the Starbucks near the State Opera, two other Germany supporters were sitting at their cup of coffee while glancing at every bystander, in the hope someone of them has a match ticket available to sell – the sign they wear clearly indicates their desire, but their faces show disappointment: They possibly will have to join the majority of fans and follow the match on one of the public screens.

But then, as I am approaching the exit to the underground at Karlsplatz, next to the State Opera, I hear a faint voice calling: “Cheap tickets available!” As I turn round, I look at a younger couple, but the hope of finding a match ticket here was premature; evidently, as they try to sell their opera tickets for tonight: Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi. I regrettable shake my head: I have seen this excellent production already, but I prefer the Standing Tickets for EUR 2.00 in any case for the better acoustic.

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