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Soccer diplomacy in Delhi, German style

Over 1,000-odd people watched the first World Cup match on the sprawling lawns of the German embassy.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 13:09 IST

Giant screens showing moments of soccer glory, a wave of beauties sashaying on the stage with footballs in their hands, German beer flowing all over the place and a thousand-odd audience plugged to action live from Munich.

Call it soccer diplomacy, if you will. Friday was clearly the night of football fever in the Indian capital and the German embassy made sure that its soccer spectacle had everybody entranced as the FIFA World Cup, the world's largest sports tournament, kicked off in Munich with the opening match between the hosts and gritty Costa Ricans.

Most of the 1,000-odd audience who started flooding the sprawling lawns of the German embassy in the evening stayed right till the end in the June heat, cheering wildly every time a goal was scored by either side.

And the audience was as eclectic as it could get: diplomats, bureaucrats, politicians, socialites, models, hacks and just pure soccer-mad enthusiasts turned up in large numbers proving that soccer mania was not simply a European affliction or Latin American fetish.

The show clearly brought out the German ingenuity and enterprise in getting big brand names like Mercedes Benz and Adidas to sponsor the event.

German Ambassador Bernd Mutzelburg was ecstatic. "It's a lot of fun to connect with Indians here. I can see a lot of Indians get turned on by soccer these days," said the ambassador, who was in a slightly nostalgic mood about the real action back home.

Michael Hasper, the press counsellor at the embassy, was, however, determined to enjoy football pleasures firsthand and he is heading back home for a month-long holiday to soak it all in.

Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar couldn't resist an ideological take on the game and spoke about solidarity with the Third World and rooted for Costa Rica.

French Ambassador Dominique Girard was in a generous mood and cheered Germany even as he waxed lyrical about the bright chances of the French team making it to the semi-finals.

Inspired by the German enterprise in hosting this soccer gala, Girard has also decided to indulge in a bit of tennis diplomacy. The French embassy has invited select guests to watch the French Open tournament to watch the action live Sunday evening.