A FIFA World Cup™ has a far broader scope than one may think. Some may be surprised to learn that the tournament has an impact in the host country far beyond the cities that accommodate the match venues. One particular feature of the world’s greatest football tournament is that it enables small and medium-sized towns, hitherto unknown to the general public, to enjoy their place in the sun and to benefit economically and culturally: the Team Training Camps (TTCs).
The TTCs are where the countries taking part in the FIFA World Cup base their headquarters. The chance to welcome some of the planet’s finest football players can have a far-reaching and unforgettable effect.
A series of Brazilian towns will certainly be hoping for a similar experience to Wangen, in Germany. In the 2006 World Cup the town with a population of 27,000 people was the chosen headquarters of Togo. The African team took advantage of the high-quality sports facilities, the modern infrastructures, and the welcoming local inhabitants who were passionate about their football and who lapped up every minute of what Michael Lang described as a “fairytale”.
Lang journeyed to Brazil to take part in the event launching the Catalogue of Training Camps for the 2014 World Cup, and was happy to share what his city experienced for one month in 2006.
“For us, the 2006 World Cup was a summer fairytale. We hosted the Togo team, and their stay in our town was a marvellous experience,” said the German councillor.
Wangen is an ancient city, steeped in more than 1,200 years of history, located in a region of outstanding natural beauty on the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Furnished with efficient public transport links, roads, railways and major airports, it possessed all the necessary attributes to receive a team participating in the 2006 World Cup. Michael Lang said that being selected by Togo was a gift for Wangen. After putting forward its training camp and contacting all the nations, the town had set its heart on accommodating a nation from a different continent.
“Our relationship with Togo began in 2005, when a delegation came to visit us. In March 2006, after we had visited Togo, where we met the president of the country and the head of their football association, we received confirmation that the African team had chosen us as their base. That triggered a transformation in Wangen to receive the team.”
The local community was fully engaged, with the German town literally dressed in green, yellow and red – the colours of the African team. The Togolese were the first country to arrive ahead of the tournament, and were received in a square by thousands of fans. During the competition a legion of supporters from Wangen went to all of Togo’s games in the group phase, the three defeats in three games (2-1 against Korea Republic, 2-0 against Switzerland and 2-0 against France) doing nothing to douse the warmth and enthusiasm shown to the team. Quite the contrary. The team were given a special “African Night” send-off where the players and more than seven thousand fans got together for a memorable celebration, which even included an elephant kicking the ball in the historical town centre.
Togo’s first appearance at a World Cup caught the imagination of the international press, and Wangen received visits from 150 journalists during the tournament. The town only benefited from the occasion, and Lang believes the same outcome awaits Brazilian cities next year. He described the impact of accommodating the team on the local economy.
“The excitement and enthusiasm shown by German citizens of African descent with regard to Togo’s stay in our town completely infected the local community and made a big difference in terms of people’s engagement with the World Cup. There was a positive impact for hotels and restaurants, and the local economy as a whole. I can’t think of a better way to promote a town than to be closely associated with a FIFA World Cup. I am sure the Brazilian cities will take full advantage of this golden opportunity,” Lang concluded.