Most of the people occupying the bean bags were not facing the big screen, but rather reading the newspaper of the latest events. Some were playing foosball, and others were playing ping-pong. The artificial dartboards and basketball hoop remained unused, just like the last time. In the lounge we have all 32 flags of the nations participating in the World Cup. I suppose it is to get us in the international spirit of the games and somehow I believe it does.
We are to be at the Olympia Stadion three hours before the games start to have the volunteer personnel disperse to various sections in and around the stadium. It turned out that this day my English and German language abilities were the ones most demanded.
The disproportionally large number of Swedish spectators began entering the stadium around 4:45 p.m. I suppose I should not have been as surprised as I was considering Sweden’s geographical position with respect to Germany. I managed to keep myself amply engaged with the fans by taking photos for groups, assisting the guests to their seats, and answering the Top Three questions asked: 1) Where is the section where my seat is located? 2) Where is the restroom? 3) Where can I buy beverages?
From my rough visual estimation, of the 72,000 spectators in attendance, well over 80% of the occupancy was due to Swedish presence. The effect bestowed on one by the dominating visual presence was only a fraction of the impression left by the acoustic power of the fans as they chanted, “Vi är svenska fans allihopa!”
The humble cluster of red and white striped Paraguayan fans were located at Section G which might as well have been light years from where I was stationed, which was in Section M. In some way wish I could have been over there to cheer for their team. Who doesn’t like to support the underdog?
I did manage to find one gentleman, from Venezuela, who was there supporting the Paraguayan team. He was more or less the needle in the blue and yellow hay stack. Even though the Paraguayan presence was modest, this vivacious group eagerly rallied to support their team through out the entire game.
Then the 89th minute came. Freddie Ljungberg scored the goal that rewarded the Swede’s with a well deserved victory and rolled out the red carpet for the team to enter the second round.
I wish I had more to report about the game, but I do not. In the first ten minutes of the game there were several opportunities for goals that Sweden was unable to capitalize on. Then the game trudged along slowly, but ended in an exceptionally climactic manner with a goal in the closing minutes.
The Swedish fans poured out of the stadium screaming, dancing, chanting, singing, some sober and some drunk, and all were bursting with pride.