Trying to avoid security at the World Cup

For this World Cup, the orgnisers have promised to be very stringent with identity checks, and that ticket holders will be matched with their passports. I look very little like the Mr. Pueltson whose name is on the ticket, so the ticket might be a problem (my apologies for the crazy spelling, but I'm now used to generating umlauts on a PC yet).

However, despite getting two tickets for the game, my cousin and co-traveller did not want to travel cross-country to Leipzig wiwth me. He didn't relish either Iran or Angola, and he wanted to save his valuable Germany Railpass days for Nuremburg.

Leipzig is a three-hour journey away by train from Hamburg. This makes it a six-hour round-trip journey for a two-hour match. As crazy as this seems, it's not altogether strange as many a dedicated football fan have made round-trips of longer journeys in poorer conditions. I myself remember rugby matches against King's Tauntons which were that long away, and if you don't think that's necessarily so awful, imagine a coach-load of proto-pubescent teenagers after a bone-crunching rugby game in the middle of a sleety British winter.

But I'm travelling first-class on the cream of Deutsch Bahnhof trains, courtesy of my German railpass tickets. For a set fee, you can travel anywhere in Germany for a certain number of days in a month. It's actually a very good deal. It works out to EUR40 a day for a second class ticket. It's a better deal at EUR50 a day for a first class ticket - which is normally a EUR40-50 surcharge. Even with the discounted World Cup fares (only available to those with gameday tickets), second class Hamburg-Leipzig-Hamburg comes out to be EUR90. So, I was very happy with an excuse to use one of my extra RailPass days.

Anyhow, I digress. But this is my story, and I reserve the right to do so. Since I had a spare ticket, I felt that since fortune shone her light on me, I should do the same to the next poor soul who wanted to experience that special atmosphere of the World Cup but did not have a ticket. That person was Billy, who probably couldn't believe his luck that not a few hours after arriving in Germany, with his only intent to enjoy the atmosphere at the fan-fest, a virtual stranger sharing his same dorm would offer him a ticket to watch a World Cup game.

Okay, it's Iran-Angola, but he'd never been to a World Cup game ever in his life, and might possibly never again. So, we bustled awake at six in the morning and hustled our way to Leipzig.

Leipzig is the only World Cup host city in the former East Germany. You can sort of sense it. There is an undeveloped feel to it, which is to its credit because much of the old architecture is still intact. The word is 'quaint', although I hate to use it because it conjures up the worst in commercially-packaged American-infested tour groups. (I hope you understand that I am referring to those loud-mouthed, perenially-uncouthed, tactfully-challenged Americans, and not those globally-enlightened, cleverly-unassuming travellers whom you occasionally meet and mistake for Canadians.)

But Leipzig is very pretty and nice to stroll through. It's compact, it's got cobbled roads (always a favourite with me) and it's got pleasant architecture.
It's also got a first class football stadium only 20 minutes walk away from the city centre. It's absolutely amazing. Size-wise it's on par with the Shah Alam stadium (which is pretty incredible in it's own right), but it's nestled in a little valley, so the stadium seems to grow out of the countryside.

We had a plan of attack. Apart from the wrong names on the tickets, I also wanted to bring in my video camera. However, some versions of the rules said that it was not possible to bring in any sort of video recording equipment. Others just made it clear that any filming or photography was for personal use only.

The idea was to try and go into the stadium only when there was a crowd. Hopefully, because they would be keen to process the masses as quickly as possible, they might let things slip. Like a camera. And an Asian-looking Poulsen. (You'll notice that the spelling will change as I get along with the story. My prerogative again.)

I sat outside, enjoying the crowd's antics. Fans waving flags. Fans tooting horns. Fans getting their bags turned inside-out by the stadium security.

The longer I sat there watching them go through bag after bag, inside seam after every inside seam, the more resigned I was that I was going to be caught out.

But it was too far for my liking to go back to the main train station and dump my stuff in a left-luggage train locker, so I decided to try my luck.

As usual, I played the I-am-but-a-dumb-tourist act. He asked me to open the bag, I opened the bag. He asked me to empty the bag, I emptied the bag.

"Oh, sorry, you cannot bring that in". But he wasn't pointing to the video camera, but the AlphaSmart. Everyone assumes that darned thing is a fully-fledged PC, when it's just a glorified electric typewriter with solid-state memory. But everyone's worried that I can use it to hack into some WiFi signal or block television signals.

Fortunately, they let me keep the bag in the store room and take my video camera with me. One down, one to go.

But the queue to cheque the tickets was moving smoothly. Nobody had to wait, nobody was being interrogated. Then he got to my ticket, saw the name, saw my face, and did a double take.
"Mr. Puetsen? Can I see your passport please?"

Damn. The game was up. I could play it clever and "C'mon, you know how this thing works, let me in", but yet again I went for innocent tourist.

I told the truth.

"Somebody in the dorm gave it to me, for free."

The guard took me aside and then asked me to join another lady outside. As she took us to the office, I carried on the "Wha-? Me-? Why-?" train of argument.

I stopped outside the office, and she asked me for my passport.

Hell. The thinking before we went in was to say that we didn't bring our passports, but I could see that this line of argument wasn't going to go anywhere fast. So I just took out the passport and gave it to her.

Trying not to look nervous, I smiled at her. "So... problem is it?"

"Ja... a little."

I realised I was smiling a little too much. What was it they said about the guilty trying to hide too much by smililng?

So I shut up and went serious.

"Does this happen a lot?"

She nodded grimly.

I then remembered that being too serious made you look shifty as well.

So I gave a slightly nervous smile. Friendly without being over-enthusiastic.

She turned to me.

"Okay, here is a new ticket, you have the same seat, just a different name."

My name is now 00003652663.

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posted on Thursday, June 22, 2006 - permalink
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