Friday, April 25, 2008

Check out my New Blog...

After a time away from blogging, I have begun again. Check it out at

Monday, July 10, 2006

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin...

It is 0600 hours on Monday, July 10th. We are doing our final packing and will be heading to the airport in a few minutes to make a connection through Frankfurt to take us home. I have more stories to bring you about this great adventure and will fill you in about the LOC party, a visit the Chancellory of the German Republic, the last days for us in Berlin and naturally the Final match.

The recording of all of that and some other earlier entries will have to wait until I am across the Atlantic and comfortably at home. I will then bring you those pictures and anecdotes as I have throughout this great World Cup. Auf Wiedersehen Berlin. Auf Wiedersehen Germany.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dinner with Donna...

One of my all time favorite people is Donna de Varona. For soccer people, I will describe Donna as the Chairperson of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup USA. For everyone else, I will describe her as the lovely two time Olympic Gold Medalist who won the 400m Individual Medley and the 400m Freestyle Relay in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics. For people interested in justice, I will tell you that Donna was at the front of the pack pushing the U.S. government to adopt Title IX, a law giving equal benefits to women athletes. She was also a founder of the Women's Sports Foundation. For those interested in broadcasting, I am proud to describe Donna as a lifelong TV personality who created a place for women in sports broadcasting and demostrated that she could do it all when it came to creating programming, interviews and hosting shows. For those of you interested in the future, Donna continues to be someone to watch since she is always in touch with what is happening and has the stature to lead those looking to do good.

Donna arrived on Friday morning, July 7th, with her husband of 20 years, John Pinto (who is a lot of fun). The good restaurants around the city had been booked for weeks but we were lucky that they made a place for us in the Lorenz Adlon, an incredible French restaurant on the the second floor of the Premier Kempinski standard bearer hotel. The view from the window was a panoramic view of the Brandenberg Gate.

I must admit that the food offerings exceeded the view. First were two tasting menus. The seasonal of five courses; the other with seven. If that didn't ring your bell there were two full pages of a la carte dishes. We didn't opt for the tasting menus but decided to do a traditional appetizer dishes and a main entree. The wine choice was tough, since there were so many to choose from, but I managed to find one that everyone liked and we polished off three bottles while digesting a really great meal.

During the day I got a message from the producers of Lynne White's WOR "drive time" Radio Show, to see if I could do a 4:10pm New York time live interview about the World Cup. That meant it would be around 10:00pm locally here in Berlin, right in the middle of this great dinner. So, with some good planning, I was able to leave the dinner table for the 15 minutes needed to do the radio show and returned just before the main course arrived.

Mary Lynn and I devoured chocolate souffles, while John, Jason and Donna did their own thing finding delicious choices on the menu. As soon as we finished, I headed back up to the room and a good night's sleep while the quartet headed out to the street to catch some of the flavor of the Fan Mile. More fun tomorrow.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Torn between two wines...

Michel Platini knows that one of my favorite wines is Chateau Figeac, a rich St. Emilion from the Bordeaux region of France. He and I once sat in a lovely New York French bistro, Le Charlot (69th Street between Madison and Park Avenues), and uncorked a vintage bottle which I saved for special times. I can be almost as enthusiastic about this wine as he was while watching Zidane put away the penalty that gave France the victory over Portugal in the Semi Finals in Munich on July 5th (pictured on the left).

On the other hand, there is my long time relationship with Tuscan wines from Italy and in particular Masseto Ornellaia. Between the Figeac and the Masseto I am truly torn to pick a favorite. I am sure this may be a dilemma faced by others as we go into Sunday's final.

The answer is simple as it relates to French and Italian Reds; we will need to let them fight that out on the field. When I wrote the story about Campagnola and overlaid the flags of the two contestants, it made me wonder if the only thing that separates them was Blue and Green, the sky and the earth, since the other two colors in each of their flags must clearly stand for Red and White wines.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Home Stretch...

Thursday was the sixth anniversary of the announcement in Zurich of the decision to award the FIFA World Cup 2006 to Germany. As dawn approached, it was time to leave Munich where we witnessed the last of the semi-finals and return to Berlin for the wrap up meetings of the FIFA Referees' Committee and the Organizing Committee for the FIFA World Cup. (Pictured here are Lennart Johansson and Julio Grondona, Chairman & Vice Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the FIFA World Cup.)

Due to the noon start for the Referees meeting, the rest of us were obligated to make the same early morning charter departing the Franz Josef Strauss Airport. Early mornings after late nights are never easy, but the flight had us back in plenty of time to check my son Jason into the hotel upon our arrival. He had joined us in Munich 24 hours earlier only 9 days after my newest grandson Logan's debut.

Mary Lynn, Jason and I had a quick lunch and then I set off for the Organizing Committee meeting while they were energized to see what could be found in these final days in the streets of the German capital.

The meeting, starting promptly at 1400 hours at the Adlon Hotel's 2nd level meeting salon opened with a few remarks from Chairman Johansson on how well things have gone. Urs Linsi then called the role of the Committee noting only two absences from Berlin that day. We moved right into the Agenda with reports by Jim Brown, Director of Competitions on Match Results; Ticketing & Hospitality by FIFA Vice President David Will; Refereeing by FIFA VP Angel Maria Villar Llona; Appointments of Match Commissioners for the two remaining matches; a report by the Technical Study Group, offered by Holger Osiek; a report on Marketing & TV matters by FIFA Director of Marketing and TV, Jerome Valcke; Markus Ziegler reported on Media Matters; followed by Drs. Michel D'Hooghe and Jiri Dvorak on Medical matters; and finally a report by Disciplinary Committee Chairman Marcel Mathier.

The LOC (Local Organizing Committee) then had its chance to report with Franz Beckenbauer leading off, followed by Horst R. Schmidt. After some comments regarding our next meeting, the President wrapped up the session offering the concensus of the members in complimenting the work of the LOC and FIFA's bodies. Blatter then made special presentations to Beckenbauer, Schmidt, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, President of the German Football Federation and to Lennart Johansson and Julio Grondona.

As we left the room, the LOC presented each member of the meeting a personalized commemorative glass sculpture with their thanks. The night would bring us together at the Gala Dinner of the Local Organizing Committee being held at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin. No more meetings here. That aspect is concluded.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Most every football official from Dr. Havelange to George Weah has been with me to dinner at Campagnola's Restaurant on First Avenue between 73rd and 74th Street on New York's Upper East Side. It isn't open for lunch, just dinner. It normally attracts a business clientele to its first sitting of Wall Street types and a later sitting with just about anybody that loves good Italian food.

Tuesday, on the street in front of the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, the President of the Northern Ireland Football Association, Jim Boyce came up to me and said, "Chuck, I was just at your favorite restaurant in New York. Our team had a game and we went there for dinner." So, this is more than just another one of New York's 28,000 restaurants; this is one that I have been eating at for over 15 years. Curiously enough, it has an Italian Manager, Salvatore Lombardi and a French Chef, Etienne Lizzi.

In 1998, we waited through the Quarter-Finals on July 3rd to see which of them I would be inviting to join me in Paris. It turned out to be the Chef, with the Italians being eliminated 4-3 on Penalties. Etienne hopped a jet for Paris following France's discharge of Croatia on July 8th, giving them the ticket for the July 12th showdown with Brazil at the Stade de France.

I told Chef Etienne to join us in the police escorted convoy to the stadium. Even now, you can hear him tell the story of his ride with sirens wailing through the city streets of Paris to Saint Denis. But, best of all, he remembers France winning the day and making his trans-Atlantic trip very special.

Last night I made a critical decision. It was no longer a question of inviting one or the other. So, as we left the stadium, at a time equating to 6pm in New York, I called the fashionable restaurant and asked to speak with both of them. Yes, they are both invited! So, on July 9th the bragging rights of this New York landmark restaurant will be decided for the next four years.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Three Bears...

Riding around Berlin, prior to taking off for a quick re-visit to Munich and the France vs Portugal Semi-Final, we took the opportunity to visit some of the exhibits set up in the German capital. On the Bebelplatz, Berlin had artists from countries around the world decorate Fiberglas bears with national flavor. This square, opposite Humbolt University, houses the memorial to the acts of May 10, 1933, where the Nazis, upon coming into power, burned thousands of books.

Ironically, a square originally dedicated to religious expression and the arts, it became the scene for intellectual intolerance and the destruction of the vehicles of ideas.

Indeed, books were born in Germany. During the World Cup, Germany decided to celebrate its contribution to the world with examples of ideas, invention and innovation. The Gutenberg printing press gave the technology to mass produce them. How poignant that this historic book burning was reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. There is a plaque, as a memorial in the center of the square, now surrounded by a world of painted bears, which reads... "They that start by burning books will end by burning men," words by Heinrich Heine written in 1821. How well those words foretold the future of book burners of the 1930s.