Munich relaxes as peace and civility break out
MUNICH, July 4: After bracing themselves for the noise, colour and beer consumption that would have accompanied a Brazil versus England semi-final, the citizens of Munich have instead experienced an outbreak of World Cup peace and civility.
The prospect of Portugal facing France, the arrival of their fans and the general effects of the fixture on the atmosphere in Bavaria's capital city have seen boules being played in the Hofgarten and sun-bathing and swimming in the Englischer Garten.
Neutrals and unattached fans whose teams have already gone out appear to outnumber the followers of the two semi-finalists, who meet in a World Cup fixture for the first time.
This has led to a multinational mingling of shirts and colours around the Marienplatz in the city centre, with many non-Germans wearing the host nation's colours.
Others continue to sport England's red and white, Brazil's yellow and green or the orange of Netherlands and Ivory Coast.
Some United States tourists also remain after their team's exit.
One family of South Korean fans, who live in Los Angeles, symbolised the new mood of harmony and neutrality by saying they had shifted their allegiance between three teams representing three different continents.
''We started out supporting Korea, of course,'' said the father, visiting Germany with his wife and two sons. ''But then we also supported the United States because we live there.
''But when they were both knocked out, we decided to support Germany.'' The two boys, in white shirts with 'Ballack, 13' emblazoned across their backs, grinned at the tale.
Hot weather and blue skies have also had an effect as tired and sun-burned fans headed for the shade of parks and gardens.
There clusters of young English supporters could be seen digesting news of David Beckham's resignation as captain in the British tabloid newspapers.
In a nearby hotel, a desk clerk admitted with relief: ''I think it is better that there is not going to be an England v Germany final! That would have been too much.'' Tension in Munich was most palpable today in the city's many Italian restaurants where the immigrant staff, with one eye on a television screen in the background, prepared for a difficult evening with their German diners.
However, the opening semi-final that sees the hosts against the Italians was not seen as a cause for potential problems.
''We live here, all of us, so whoever wins, we carry on,'' said Antonio, a waiter. ''We just hope it is a beautiful game.''