Just when Nath and Ludo packed their bags and headed home, I thought that my 12 month internship might have been about to drag on a bit. I was wrong. BMW is a bit like Star Trek, in that there’s always the next generation. Instead of civilised alien socities, there is a pool of intelligent and of interns that feed BMW’s creative conscience. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this year it’s that there are always more people to get to know. And even though it might have seemed like the highlights had been and gone they are in fact stretched across this twelve month placement in Bavaria and the fun in Central Europe continues. This past weekend I was lucky enough to be a Englishman playing football for a German company in Italy. We had been invited to wage war against BMW Italia at the BMW Alpencup. From now on, “the French” will refer to BMW France, “the Swiss” will refer to BMW Switzerland etc. Being a less experienced in the realms of footie, my one goal in this tournament was to scare the French. We didn’t score any goals, but I feel I may have scared the occasional Frenchman. And if so, then I have done my job. It was a memorable trip whereby only one team member ended up in hospital in two countries. It was a different team that drove down to Milan, than the team that drove back to Munich. We bonded well. If we had called each other colleagues on the way to the tournament, we called each other friends on the way back.
Lei non mangia la carne.
On Friday, we set off from work in convoy, nestled in our shiny company cars and looking forward to the football tournament that
lay ahead of us. It was hard not to look smug and we didn’t bother trying. We made good headway down to Austria, Switzerland and eventually the Italian border and enjoyed the wondrous alpine scenery complete with soundtrack. The journey down was getting the weekend off to a positive start. You know a car is nice when you refrain from releasing a single fart inside. The BMW 3er Touring is this nice, that you hold in that fart and keep the unpolluted, light atmosphere tasting good. This could be thanks to the new BMW f-Drive Fart Control Assistant package that came with the car. It really works!
People are always going on about how “It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the journey” or words to that effect. These people haven’t driven through Milan in rush hour. Once we were past the alps, it was definitely about the destination. We were confronted by all types of poor driver and our driver, Mario (a German with a red beard, despite his name) was forced to use the horn on several occasions. Such automotive atrocities had already been anticipated and were well prepared for the situation on hand. Listening to Italian radio soothed our nerves and helped us to consolidate our knowledge of what to us seemed the most important phrase on my useful BBC Languages printout: “She doesn’t eat meat”. Leeeeeeiiii non maaaaangia la carrrrrrne!
A warm welcome.
We arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel a little later than expected, checked in and dropped our bags off before getting straight onto the bus to the NSC, BMW Italia. They welcomed us into their spectacular showroom where we were wined and dined and various rules were explained (one of which they forgot was that Italian referees may rule in favour of Italy as long as the dives were dramatic and dynamic). The Italians were impeccably behaved but one got the feeling that you were watching another episode of “The BMW Italia Show” as they showed off the fact that they won last year’s trophy. They really were vivacious and admirable and I have nothing but slightly sarcastic compliments to offer. A great team.The Italians are just so chic and characterful, you can’t help but like them. In my most humble of opinions, I found it a shame that everything had to be conducted in sterile business English – the room being filled with fantastic emotive languages with different nuances which due to various acceptable reasons, one of which being the nature of time, no-one really bothered to learn. Still though, it was unfortunate that multi-nationals presentations have to be boiled down to a bland version of broken English. Being typical Italians they had put an attractive woman in charge of their affairs. It seemed as though, when selecting a presenter for their show, they placed virtues such as attractiveness and leg to waist ratio ahead of rhetoric. Anyhow, with said attractive woman in charge of their affairs, who was a lovely person I’m sure but let’s just say she wasn’t in line to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. In plain English, listening to her, whether it be on loudspeaker or even just on a good old microphone, it was like listening to nails down a blackboard. Sharp nails. The Italians were punished for this butchering of our admittedly mongrel language on various occasions as I carelessly cut up their seamlessly romantic sentences into barbaric hunks of grammatical flesh.
The soundtrack of the team: “It’s Kevin, you know, hard to believe it’s not Scholes, it’s Kevin, you know, hard to believe it’s not Scholes”.
Catastrophe after Colazione
Saturday began with breakfast at the brutal hour of six-thirty for seven. We then headed in coaches to the pitches located not too far from the hotel, despite a few wrong directions taken by the drivers. The tournament got off to a catastrophic start with Jan breaking his entire foot (I’m not a doctor) in the first ten minutes of the tournament in the first match against Italy. He was carried off the pitch and taken to the “hospitale” without a second thought. Not only had we lost one of our best players, we had also lost a great motivator. Soon after, Kevin was also unlucky enough to be struck by a twinge and he was out. Two solid players, Jan – BMW’s answer to Schweinsteiger and Kevin who could have been the less famous third Boateng brother, were out of the game and their replacements fought hard. We never gave up and let it be said that the task of footballing was carried out with tremendous spirit throughout the day. By the time the cup was presented to us, we had already agreed to celebrate it as if we had won the real thing. The less said about matches won (0) and goals scored (0) the better. At the end of the day, all teams were glad to have us there and we contributed hugely to atmosphere.
Both teams dived, but at least the Italians did it gracefully and occasionally took the time to over-apologize. As for the frogs, “fair play” isn’t something which translates well into their language. The bottom line was that they were some of the most filthy players I have ever witnessed, twice against us alone, they cut down our players like a rusty guillotine with their poorly timed and aggressive sliding tackles from behind, acting presumably as a way of venting their frustration. Needless to say, it took little excuse for Otmar to bring on the mad Engländer to inject a bit of aggression into the game like a rabid police dog whose primary objective was to aggress them. Their winger against whom I valiantly defended at one point out of nowhere just said to me in perfect Frenglish after he had given away the ball: “You are stooopide” before making a dash for it. He was a marked man by the time I was finished with him. I was so stupefied by this that I had really no comeback, which rather annoyingly completely validated his insult. I guess he was right, I really am just a plain old stupid British barbarian.
But we celebrated as if we had triumphed under the motto: “It’s the taking part that counts” and everyone seemed glad to have us there. We gave it our best, and at then end of the day that’s all anyone can ask, even if they do ask it in Italian. Interesting to observe was the importance of the family and this strict patriarchal hierarchy in italy. A true wonder to behold. It was so easy to see who was in charge of whom. This part of Italian culture is obviously great when it works, but as we know from Arthur Miller’s A view from The Bridge, it can prove disastrous when tinkered with. Language-wise, it’s been a while since I did GCSE Italian, but I was able to talk with my hands and try to speak with my body language. After offering “complimenti” the “capitano” of the hosts, I was told to contact him if ever I was in Milan and he would sort me out. So an effective bit of networking was done.
Corso Sempione e The Old Fashion.
After some stodgy food we were on the bus and back to the hotel. There was no hanging around. Everyone had 15 minutes to don chinos and a shirt. Then we took the train straight into the city. Once there we wandered through the city centre given the official tour from the brilliant man Frederik, il capitano nosso. The way we swaggered through the city centre, any onlooker would have thought we were a middle of the table Bundesliga team. In truth we were a bottom of the table BMW team but we didn’t care: it was an 80s AND 90s night at The Old Fashion. So we finished up our pizza under Napoleon’s overcompensating arch and saw off our cocktails before casually trotting off to the next event.
As a general rule, groups of lads don’t get into clubs, but most groups of lads didn’t have Frederik leading them. The evening concluded at The Old Fashion where our capitano, Frederik managed to charm, persuade, bribe our way into a VIP lounge in the middle of the dancefloor in this open air club. Shot girls, vodka, gin, sparklers neon paint, dancing on the stage. After hours of partying with Max and the rest of the lads we managed to make our way home in various taxis via a paninni stand.
On the Sunday everyone woke up at different times, some made breakfast and some didn’t. I did, before you get any thoughts. After a short debrief we were ready to hit the pizzeria for our last tast of Italy before the drive home. Once tucking into our pizzas (Soviet Serguei ate his inside out like an absolute Spast, I must say)
Serguei… Bist du ein Spast?
The road trip with Alex, Mario and Andreas on the way back provided me with a chance to tell them about my time in Germany so far. My German is of a really good standard now – you know you’ve made it in a language when you can tell a story which makes people laugh. I had the Germans on the floor. Very satisfying indeed. I will be a spy to be reckoned with if it comes to another war, don’t worry Grandparents.
When it comes to footballing prowess, the Bavarians know their stuff. A millions thanks go to Otmar for sticking with us and being the sort of coach you would trust with your life. This post is dedicated to Jan the Man, the injured striker from Bielefeld. Having visited him in hospital, he’s seems to be doing fine, apart from his leg is yellow, it’s as if all the Simpsons cartoons he’s been watching have just spilled out from the TV and all over his lover half. He is recovering slowly but steadily now back at home.
To be in the company of my team was all my pleasure, some of the stories they told were more captivating than Guantanamo Bay. I hope we all stay in touch.
Until next time guys.