The fans who attended the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany ™ have been honoured with the Fair Play award at the FIFA World Player Gala 2006. The award is traditionally bestowed on an individual, group or institution for exceptional services to football over the preceding 12 months, and choosing a winner - or more precisely the winners - can rarely have been as easy as it was this year.
Some two million fans flocked to Germany to follow their teams through the finals in June and July and the atmosphere they created inside the stadiums and at the open-air Fan Fests will linger long in the memory. Fans from around the globe came together for a four-week celebration of the beautiful game, joining with millions of locals to engulf Germany in a sea of colourful flags, banners and football strips.
The official FIFA Fan Miles in Germany's 12 Host Cities attracted more than 16 million people over the course of the tournament's 64 games. The idea of providing an alternative for ticket-less supporters seized the public imagination and the Fan Miles quickly became the most popular venues for enjoying the action and soaking up the atmosphere. 17,000 staff helped keep the spirits high and the beer flowing - some three million litres in all.
"The 18th FIFA World Cup will long be remembered for this exceptional level of enthusiasm and passion," said a happy FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter. The man in charge of FIFA's Fan Mile project, Gregor Lentze, was equally delighted, saying its success had "exceeded all expectations".
The President of the tournament's Local Organising Committee, Franz Beckenbauer, was also hugely impressed, saying: "I would never have dreamt that millions of people would get together like this, to share experiences and celebrate."
Fan Fests break all records
The Fan Mile in Berlin alone attracted an estimated nine million people from Germany and abroad, with 1.75 million litres of beer, 2.5 million grilled sausages and 150,000 ice creams sold there during the finals. Uniquely, the visitor numbers here left even those of the world-famous Oktoberfest (six million visitors) in the shade.
In Hamburg, each of the Germany 2006 finalists had their own food tent on the Fan Mile. Supporters could enjoy home fare, or try out some of the culinary favourites of competing nations. Even more evident than the dizzying array of food, however, was the fantastic sense of community at these venues.
Whether they had travelled from Croatia, Brazil, Mexico or Japan, or just from their flat around the corner, football fans from all over gave free reign to their love of the game, engendering an infectious and high-spirited atmosphere.
Few had ever doubted Germany's ability to organise such a great FIFA World Cup. In the end, however, the abiding memory of the tournament will not be the efficient organisation, modern stadiums or exemplary infrastructure, but the millions of fans who took to heart the slogan "A time to make friends" and for four weeks this summer made Germany a place of festiveness and good humour.