Kris Fernandes is a FIFA accredited freelance writer based in Toronto. He has been actively involved in spreading the love of the beautiful game in Canada and abroad for several years through administration, media coverage and coaching. He also covered the 2006 FIFA World Cup live for CBCSports.ca with the popular journal series, "A Canadian in Germany". Contact Kris at email@example.com
VIENNA, AUSTRIA — A Friday night in Vienna is simply brilliant.
When you have a match featuring two of the most diehard supporters in Europe, Turkey and Croatia, it only gets better. But sometimes it gets ugly.
After getting off another long train ride from Basel, you knew the city was buzzing about this game. The Turkish were everywhere and were really into it for this one.
I was planning on attending this match but knew I may have to go over my budget for the Spain vs. Italy match in a couple of days, so I held back and decided to hit the fan zone for this one.
Usually the fan zones are a mix of fans of many nations and there are no real designated areas for specific groups. But as soon as you walked in the zone here you saw the big screen and on one side it was Croats, and the Turks on the other. I sat down on some pavement in no man's land to get a great seat to watch the match, and inching closer behind me were the red and white chequered Croats. Boy can they ever chant.
The match wasn't that intense, but when extra time started things really got heated in the zone.
Fans for both teams kept waving their flags and pointing fingers towards each other and someone tossed a beer at the Turks and no man's land was starting to look like the front lines.
When Ivan Klasnic scored in the last minute I had to get up or be trampled flat. The Turks were devastated, and as I was filming the Croatians celebrate their jaws and faces drop like a sack of potatoes. Turkey had miraculously come back with a last second goal. The Turkish fans rushed the empty plot where I was and teased the Croatians by bouncing up and down while challenging them to come to their side. Not the smartest of moves.
During penalty shootout people kept throwing the (thankfully) plastic glasses of Coke and beer at each other and I had to watch out for flying objects as much as I was watching the shootout. When Turkey won, it got nasty.
Fans of both supporters rushed the area where I had peacefully enjoyed most of the game and were taunting each other, flexing their muscles and definitely wanting to throw down. One idiot even wore Ultimate Fighting Championship gloves and kept egging the Croats to test him. Make no mistake, there were a lot of fans trying to diffuse the situation, but a group of about 10 just went at it right then and there before the police came in, knocked one hooligan out cold and everyone scattered.
I had seen the odd scrap or two here at the tournament but this one was easily the worst and the local news had something to chat about the next day.
Euro 2008's slogan is expect emotions — yeah, no kidding.