World Cup kicks off in Germany with star-studded ceremony
9 June 2006, MUNICH - The 2006 World Cup officially began Friday, kicked off by a colourful ceremony celebrating football lore and the 32 nations taking part in the globe's biggest single sporting event.
9 June 2006
MUNICH - The 2006 World Cup officially began Friday, kicked off by a colourful ceremony celebrating football lore and the 32 nations taking part in the globe's biggest single sporting event.
From a stage at Munich's dazzling new stadium, German President Horst Koehler declared the start of the championship's 18th edition since 1930, an hour before hosts Germany and Costa Rica faced off in the opening game.
"We're off at last," Koehler told the cheering crowd, welcoming fans and players at the month-long tournament for football's biggest prize.
"You are among friends," said Koehler, flanked by German football hero and World Cup chief organiser Franz Beckenbauer and Joseph Blatter, head of the sport's world governing body, FIFA.
"May football be a bridge between nations," said Koehler, who also appealed for fair play at the tournament.
Despite the feel-good atmosphere, thousands of German police mounted an all-out security operation ahead of the opening match at the uniquely designed Munich stadium.
In a Bavarian-themed extravaganza, 182 drum-bearing men in lederhosen filled the pitch for the welcoming ceremony, performing a thigh-slapping polka to cheers from a crowd including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Young men and boys rattled huge cowbells, followed by a hip-hop band and the arrival of the golden World Cup trophy - carried to the stage by football legend Pele and German supermodel Claudia Schiffer, flanked by a boy in lederhosen and a girl in traditional Bavarian dress.
But the biggest cheer at the opening went to Beckenbauer - the "Kaiser" - the only person to have won the World Cup both as a team captain and a coach.
Officials hoisted the national flags of the teams that qualified for the championship, which will rivet a global audience in the billions.
A total of 64 games involving 736 players will capture the world's attention for the next month in 12 stadiums across Germany and 15,000 media representatives will report back on every kick and tackle right up to the final at Berlin's renovated Olympic Stadium on July 9.
At the opening ceremony, the stadium was graced by a host of World Cup winners, from 1950 to 2002, hailing from Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Germany, and Uruguay.
In the parade were Brazil legend Pele, a three-time World Cup winner, Argentine Diego Maradona, who lifted the trophy in 1986, and Beckenbauer, Germany's own favourite son.
Sir Bobby Charlton, a winner with England in 1966, France's Cup- winning captain Didier Deschamps and Marco Tardelli, whose goal helped Italy to win the World Cup in 1982, also were among a host of footballing legends on show.
A minute's silence will precede the opening game to remember the game's stars who have died over the past year. Then, the competition proper begins - with Costa Rica charged with the task of upsetting the odds with a win over the hosts.
Germany were set to be without their best player, the injured Michael Ballack, but Germany will fancy their chances, roared on by a capacity crowd inside the stadium.
Four years after Brazil won the Cup in Yokohama, the South Americans, favourites yet again, will begin their defence on Tuesday against Croatia.
Just one note of caution for the German squad, though: the winners of the opening match have never won the World Cup.
Subject: German news