World Cup Fan-Fest: The Team Behind The Game

This is an article that was published on a local blog by a journalist, who followed me around for a day. I translated it from German.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

Tina and Yasha during the match in the VIP-area © Hamburger Abendblatt

When 50,000 people get together for a World Cup party, there is a lot of stuff to take care of. A look behind the scenes of the KIA fan-arena on the Holy Spirit field in Hamburg.

It is an extremely rare moment. Jascha Bergmann sits on one of the big brown equipment boxes next to the stage, with relish he pulls on his cigarette and stretches his legs. “Magnesium for breakfast helps,” Jascha says and laughs. The first time in eight hours that Jascha can catch his breath for a moment. A rare moment of peace while only a few meters away about 25,000 fans can hardly wait for the start of the World Cup match between Germany and Ghana. Just under half an hour until kick-off.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

© Hamburger Abendblatt

 The 25-year-old is project manager for the Kia Fan-Arena on the Holy Spirit field, responsible for the event logistics and infrastructure. “The jack of all trades” as Jascha says, on site since noon already, because all the necessary arrangements with police, emergency services and the security company have to be made so that everything goes smoothly during the game. Around 130 police officers and 85 Securities are on duty for the Germany match this evening. “We are prepared for everything,” Jascha says. Even the most extreme situation is thought through. “If it really comes to the worst-case scenario, everyone knows what to do.”

Radio, duck tape and multi tool – with his equipment belt, he looks like an elite cop. Only the uniform has been replaced by jeans and a black and red Germany jersey. His next assignment will not be long in coming. The message of a power failure reaches Jascha over the radio – and that just an hour before kick-off.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

The Holy Spirit field is well equipped for large public events © Hamburger Abendblatt

On the double, the 25-year-old makes his way through the crowd. [A classic rap song from a local Hip-Hop artist] echoes from the stage. Being out on major events as regularly Jascha knows how to move through the crowd in such situations, getting ahead quickly. Agility, sharp reflexes and confidence are clearly beneficial.

The next problem is already waiting on arrival at the Brazil marquee. At the neighbouring stall, serving black-red-golden shots to the visitors, the water is running. A hose valve is suddenly missing. “We cannot turn off the water,” Jascha says. “It’s serving the entire row.” But you know how: with a cable tie the hose is tied off. “It’s ok for now, but we need a new valve.”

The power outage, however, isn’t that easy to resolve. A fuse is broken. “Fridge, hi-fi and lighting system is simply too much for a grounding connection,” Jascha explains to the disappointed Brazilian. Now only the emergency service can help. Keeping it with the song “breathless” he is speeding back to the office container on the other side of the area.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

Yasha and his best friend the leather man © Hamburger Abendblatt

During a night like this Jascha must make similar kilometers as a Müller, Hummels and the like [German team]. He guesses the score mostly by the cheers or the groan of the fans. Nevertheless, the project manager loves his current workplace, where all generations and classes are celebrating together. “It is even more beautiful than in the stadium. They have the players on the field, here it’s the fans.”

They are about to be counted, estimated to be more precise. Together with colleague Tina Kugler and two police officers, he steps on a working lift up to about 30 meters height. It is only a few minutes until kick-off in Brazil. The area is already filled to two-thirds, but you can still see crowds coming toward the entrance from the subway in the distance. Only now I realize how difficult it is to estimate a moving mass. “Tonight we are full,” Jascha predicts. 50,000 fans came to the public broadcast in spite of occasional showers. But the rainbow over the Holy Spirit Field makes you forget even the little bit of moisture.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

The event site has hosted a public broadcast biannually since 2006. © Hamburger Abendblatt

As the ball is back in the game, Jascha is on his way back to the wheelchair platform. The security guard is not on position. Many fans have taken the opportunity to secure an exclusive, albeit unauthorized vantage point here. Jascha rushes on to the Security container, then two securities are sent from the entrances. A few minutes later Jascha, the security men and two police officers are politely but affirmatively clearing the platform. His radio still hums incessantly.

Circulatory collapse at bar 2, music too loud in Germany marquee, broken fence on the south side – within minutes Jascha must have a solution ready for every problem. For this job you need a lot of patience and a structured approach. Never lose your head or the humor. Not even stressful situations can take that away from him. “Except when I’m hungry.” For emergencies, the 25-year-old has a whole bar of chocolate hidden in the inside pocket of his jacket.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

Managing the security personnel is tough and writing their schedule requires a lot of work. © Hamburger Abendblatt

An assignment shortly after the restart: A television has changed its mind In the VIP-area: Instead of football it shows the broadcast of the Hurricane Festival. Fortunately, the celebrities have more than one TV between high tables and buffet. After a few minutes, the problem is solved. The chance to take a look at the action from the tribune. Then everything happens quickly: Corner shot by Kroos, header Mertesacker, Klose is there – Goal! Jascha throws his arms up into the air. The 2-2 for Germany and he is part of it. “What a rare chance.”

But now it’s back quickly to the office. In a few minutes, the game will be over and 50,000 people will be leaving at the same time. All exits must be open. Are all securities at their post? Together we push past the edge of the crowd, tripping over puddles of urine, vomit and food scraps. “Sometimes I have the feeling that I smell of it everywhere,” Jascha jokes and sprints on. The groan of the fans in the background reveals no good. Will Germany still lose the game? With quick steps, it goes back to the container, then on to exit 3. The pace is fast – in the game, as with Jascha.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

© Hamburger Abendblatt

Nearly an hour later it’s all over. Despite a draw the fans are leaving the site bawling towards the red light district. The honking of cars echoes across the square. What remains is a field of empty plastic cups and crushed promotional materials. The cleaning crew will start in a few hours. An irate fan, who has his long hipster beard dyed black-red-gold, is disputing over his cup deposit at a beer bar. Together with three securities Jascha runs over the empty space. The young man wants his deposit back, but cannot produce any tokens. He demands for the police to be called.

“The usual insanity,” Jascha says when we make a last tour of the grounds. The power in the Brazil tent is back on and the base is banging over the field. “Too loud” as Jascha finds and asks one of the happy dancing Brazilians to turn down the music. The nerves of the residents should not be overused. It’s not that easy next door in the Germany marquee. There’s no music playing, but the fans are singing even louder. They have another half an hour until the space is cleared. Six security guards are staying on for the night shift.

And Jascha? He will go home soon. First watch at the game. Or at least the review.

© Hamburger Abendblatt

Sponsors insist on their give aways, despite the mess they make. © Hamburger Abendblatt

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