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An American Fanís Journal

June 14, 1998: A crowning moment for Nigeria.

June 13, 1998: Let the World Cup debate begin.

June 10, 1998: World Cup off to good start.

An American Fan's Journal: The Great Paris Umbrella Riot.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes Correspondent

PARIS (Tuesday, June 16, 1998) -- I have survived the great umbrella riot of the Coupe Du Monde. Survived, but poorer for the experience. But more on this in a moment.

First, the match. You probably all saw it, so I can be brief. We sent boys to do men's work. Simple as that. There is not a single U.S. player who could have make the German squad, with the exception of Keller.

Put another way, the day before the match, Thomas Dooley was sitting in the team's Paris hotel lobby talking about the difference between the U.S. and German national sides. "They have so many more players to chose from," said Dooley. "There are players in the second and even third divisions in Germany who could start for us. 'Nuff said.

Through an accident of ticketing, we were sitting behind some officials of the German soccer federation. During the evening they were quite friendly to we visitors. They shared the opinion that Claudio Reyna was "quite a competent player," that Thomas Dooley "has been (notice the verb tense) a very good defender, and how they wished Keller "was a German."

They were pleased that the U.S. gave their side 90 minutes of good exercise. They also smiled when we began our chant of the night "Remember the Marshall Plan."

Before the match, the crowd was entertained by some youth soccer, several matches featuring French 11-12 year olds. Their skill level was quite high. Alan Rothenberg was seen wandering the field asking the most skillful "By chance, is your father an American?"

But back to the umbrella riot. As has been the case in Paris for the past week, when we left for the stadium, it was pouring rain. So we, and thousands of others, took umbrellas. When we got to the stadium, we had to pass through four levels of security, including a hand search of every bag, and a complete body search.

At the last, our umbrellas were confiscated, because, according to the logic of the night, umbrellas might be used as weapons. So we were required to check them, and were given a ticket stub to reclaim them after the match. The weather turned clear, so no rain and actually a pleasant evening.

After the match, there were thousands, literally, waiting in a more or less orderly line to reclaim umbrellas. The orderly crowd became progressively less so as the minutes turned into a half hour. Finally, people began grabbing what they wanted, and all hell broke lose. It was every umbrella owner for himself.

Finally the riot police (there were hundreds with little to do all evening . . . this was a very mellow crowd) arrived to restore order. But this time there were few umbrellas remaining, and certainly not the ones we arrived with. Hope it doesn't rain again while we are here.

Marylandís Bob Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at MobileWag@aol.com.