Vol. 5 Num 749 Thu. July 06, 2006  

WC Briefs

German President Horst Kohler says he is pleased that Germans have been able to follow his example at the World Cup when it comes to flying the flag.

"I think it's great that I am no longer the only one going around with a flag on his car," Kohler said, noting thousands of compatriots have adopted a trend previously reserved for presidential limousines.

Platini, ZZ....Ribery?
A group of six firefighters in the French port of Boulogne-sur-mer have composed a song in honour of local hero and France star Franck Ribery.

The "Fra-Gueules" (literally French mouths) celebrate the man who "came from nothing to become everything" -- although Portugal and Italy must be overcome before he can call himself a world champion.

'Ti Franck' is being held up as the new Michel Platini, perhaps even the new Zinedine Zidane.

His firefighter fans will not be able to chant his name during the semifinal against the Portuguese as some will be on duty.

Domingo to sing out
Opera star Placido Domingo will, as he has done since 1982, clear his throat and launch into song at the World Cup final. This time he will sing a half-time welcome ditty composed by his son Placido Domingo Jr, whose lyrics the tenor says underpin "the idea that football is linked to friendship." He can then sit back and watch his country's bid for glory.

Politics can wait
Slovak referee Lubos Michel this week had to postpone taking up his position as a lawmaker in parliament in Bratislava. With a chance of officiating in the final Michel said that he had had to present his excuses, citing "important other duties" as he carries on with his World Cup commitments.

Lufthansa soaring
Lufthansa says that a record number of passengers are set to swarm into Berlin for Sunday's World Cup final before heading out on Monday.

With 11,000 Monday departures expected "that is double the norm," according to Berlin-based Lufthansa director Stephan Weinmann.

"Since 1990, when Lufthansa regained the right (following German unification) to land in Berlin again we have only experienced one such stream of passengers -- for the wrapping of the Reichstag by (artists) Christo and Jeanne-Claude in summer 1994," he said.

Nothing but football
Such has been the level of World Cup euphoria -- Germany's semifinal loss to Italy attracted an almost 90 percent audience share in the host nation -- that even those who were resolutely inclined not to tune in have been falling victim to the mania.

German impresario Stephan Barbarino hoped to cash in on the refuseniks through a website,, (football-free zone), proposing tourism and general cultural information. For a while the site attracted some 12,000 hits a day but the number has consistently dropped since.

"Such has been the atmosphere that people are allowing themselves to be swept along by the euphoria," concedes Barbarino.

Even he watched the semifinal.