SOCCER FANS PITCH TENTS, PACK THEIR RVS TO SEE THE WORLD CUP

2006-06-12 18:52
FRANKFURT, Germany June 12 Sapa-AP

(AP Photos PDJ101)

Kevin Neale pitched his Union Jack-decorated tent just outside Germany's financial center, opting to pay just ?7, or nearly US$9, a night instead of the hundreds of euros being sought by Frankfurt's hotels.

Auto worker Dean Doc and six friends pooled their money for eight days in a seven-berth RV - kitchen included - to follow England at the World Cup.

"It's a good price," the 41-year-old from Birmingham told The Associated Press on Monday, as they readied to drive to Nuremberg for England's Thursday game against Trinidad & Tobago. "The seats exchange into beds and it comfortably sleeps seven."

At just 985 British pounds (US$1,813; ?1,442) for a week, plus gas and food, they figure they are just spending around 220 pounds (US$405; ?322) each to see World Cup action without sacrificing the comfort of a comfortable bed and hot food.

They're not alone. Thousands of fans from England to Poland have loaded up in rental vans, recreational vehicles or camping trailers to follow their teams in the June 9 to July 9 tournament.

Most said it was a bid to save money. After all, in Frankfurt, which is famous for steep hotel prices, two nights in the financial capital range from places like the Tryp Frankfurt Langenselbod, which only ?61 (US$76.68) for the stay but is 45 kilometers, or nearly 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the city, to figures around ?800 (more than US$1,000) at the Prinz Otto Hotel in the city itself.

"It's too expensive," said Johnny Maloney, 32, of Portsmouth, who is using a tent to keep himself housed during the World Cup. "We just set up a tent anywhere we go."

Germany is famed for its RV parks and camp grounds, and it is not uncommon to see the parks filled to capacity on weekends. During major events such as the World Cup, reservations are mandatory, but even then tents have been set up outside facilities at no cost.

"The facilities are fantastic," said Kevin Neale, a 35-year-old Londoner, who was traveling with three friends and went the high-class route in France for the recent Cannes film festival but decided on the budget approach to the World Cup. "I've stayed in the best hotels in Cannes, but I was dubious about coming to Germany and camping."

He said his perception was reversed because of the availability of showers, easy access to trains and the city and the camaraderie of the campers and campsite operators. And the cost? Just around ?7 (nearly US$9) nightly.

"We've all pitched in and helped out and created our own community," Neale said, adding that watching games was done at nearby bars where the beer was inexpensive.

"We move onto Munich tomorrow, and then we'll go to Nuremberg for the game. We're camping out there, too," he said.

For Doc and his six traveling companions, it was just a matter of renting the RV and taking the ferry to France and from there driving through the Netherlands and into Germany.

"It was just a crack driving across," he said.

John Maloney, 32, of Portsmouth, packed up an old Vauxhall Cavalier, painted it with the St. George cross and threw in tents for the journey to Germany.

He said that after looking at the various hotels in places where they planned to attend games, it was clear they could save a mint by roughing it, even if the weather outside was frightful (and it wasn't).

"We've tented outside, and the people are the best that I've ever met," he said, adding that when they wanted to watch other games on television, he and his six friends would find a nearby pub, belly up to the bar and partake of inexpensive beers and watch soccer until closing time.

"The beer is cheaper outside of the city limits," Maloney said. "It can cost up to ?25 (US$31) a round, and that's a lot of money when you're drinking 16 hours a day!"

Doc said he and his friends were considering using an RV for the next World Cup, but may opt to fly since it is being held in South Africa in 2012.

"That's probably a bit too far to drive," he said. "But you never know."

Sapa-AP

/rm

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