`Personalisation' pays

According to Wolfgang Niersbach, vice-president of the World Cup organising committee, the `personalisation' of tickets has been very effective in the prevention of hooliganism.

German organisers have completely abandoned the original plan to turn away fans whose names in their passports do not match their ticket. The German government had insisted on the measure for security reasons but it has finally dawned that trying to check tens of thousands of fans is completely impractical.

Instead, spot-checks are being carried out on around 1% of fans going to matches but even if the tickets are in a different name and were bought on the black market, the supporters concerned merely sign a form transferring the ticket to their name and are then allowed into the stadium.

Wolfgang Niersbach, vice-president of the organising committee, insisted the `personalisation' of the tickets had worked in preventing known hooligans buying them, and because each ticket could be traced back to the person who originally bought it. He said: "The personalisation of the tickets has been very effective in prevention."

There have been a few cases of forged tickets being seized — and a fake chef who tried to forge accreditation to gain access to the catering area of one stadium — but the quality of the forgeries have been so poor they have not alarmed FIFA.

Meanwhile, organisers are continuing to investigate why there were 1,700 seats empty for the Holland versus Serbia and Montenegro match in Leipzig on Sunday. The reason is likely to be that a national association or sponsor did not return unsold tickets as they are supposed to.

US and them

The United States squad have grown heartily sick of answering questions about the security presence which surrounds them. `Yes', they are grateful, `no', it doesn't have any impact on them. Their fans are more at risk from any anti-US feeling. Chants of `USA go home' were ringing round the main square in Gelsenkirchen prior to their opening game against the Czech Republic.

However, the chants were nothing to do with the war in Iraq, more some friendly banter from a vocal Czech contingent at a handful of US fans who had opted to buy a beer in one of `their' bars. After a good-natured exchange and some mutual back-slapping, Uncle Sam's boys moved on.

Disappointing slogans

The slogans on the team buses in the 2006 World Cup have proved somewhat disappointing so far. Switzerland's English slogan "2006 — it's Swiss o'clock" at least avoided taking sides in the language debate in the multilingual country even if it was baffling.

France have gone back to the French Revolution with their slogan, "Liberte, Egalite, Jules Rimet."

The absence of the word `fraternite' may or may not be connected to the fact that the older and younger players in the squad do not mix socially.

Canny Croat

The Croatian fan who made it onto the pitch during Brazil's opening match stunned tournament organisers who had believed the Olympic Stadium in Berlin was invasion-proof. The supporter managed to leap across a two-metre moat, scale a small wall and avoid stewards before running onto the pitch, before being ushered off by Rangers striker Dado Prso — who does not look like someone you want to mess with.

Gerd Graus, a spokesman for the German organisers, said: "We wouldn't have imagined it was possible and I think he must have been an extra in track and field. Our security people are looking at this to make sure it cannot happen again."

The fan is to be blacklisted from the tournament and is also expected to be fined up to �500. Two flares were let off during the game — not bad considering 823 were confiscated by security staff searching fans going into the stadium.

Eriksson has company

If Sven-Goran Eriksson thinks he gets a hard time from the English media on occasion, he should spare a thought for Ratomir Dujkovic, the Serb who coaches Ghana.

Forty-eight hours after his side's 2-0 defeat to Italy, Dujkovic was given the proverbial roasting. With the whole press conference being beamed live on TV in the west-African country, Dujkovic was initially bombarded with questions about his side's perceived defensive weaknesses before another journalist — who claimed he has a UEFA coaching licence — publicly stated that the training Ghana's squad had undergone before their match against the Czech Republic was completely inadequate.

Meanwhile, Eriksson has still not totally got to grips with working in Britain. Asked if Belfast — where England lost a World Cup qualifier to Northern Ireland — had been mentioned in any of his team-talks this week, Eriksson said: "Who?"

Mickey Mouse football

Switzerland coach Kobi Kuhn has admitted that football has changed since he played in the 1966 World Cup in England. Kuhn laughed when asked about changes in the game since his playing days. "It was Mickey Mouse football," he said when asked to compare the game in 1966 to the modern day game.

Cult figure

German organisers sent a bouquet of flowers to Czech striker Jan Koller after his injury against USA which threatens to rule him out of the tournament. Koller plays his club football for Borussia Dortmund and is something of a cult figure in Germany.

Free loaders

Chinese journalists are making use of the perk of free first-class train travel for accredited media by using the trains as free hotels. The reporters are based in one part of Germany but take an overnight train to another, sleeping in the reclinable seats, before returning to their original destination the following morning.

A legend reappears

Helmut Haller, scorer of the opening goal of the 1966 World Cup final, appeared in Baden Baden and watched Brazil beat Croatia in the TV room at the posh Brenner's Park Hotel and joked with English reporters about pinching the match-ball from the final at Wembley 40 years ago.

He has since given it back to Sir Geoff Hurst. For the record, he does not fancy England's chances this year.

Plummeting ratings

German daily Bild were unimpressed by Ronaldo's performance in Brazil's 1-0 win over Croatia.

The paper gives player ratings on a scale from one to six with one the top rating — Bild says it's worthy of a World Cup winner — while six is awarded to a player who should not be playing at the World Cup. Ronaldo's mark from the paper was... six.

Tailpiece

The piece of chewing gum spat out by Jens Lehmann, Germany's goalkeeper, after he conceded the second goal against Costa Rica has been put up for sale on eBay.

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