England fans drinking Gelsenkirchen dry

July 1, 2006

GELSENKIRCHEN, July 1 (Reuters) - There were three main colours in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday - red, white and yellow - as England fans did their best to drink the mining town dry.

Thick crowds of England supporters up to 10-deep gathered in front of every pub, restaurant or convenience store selling beer before their team's quarter-final match against Portugal.

'If this keeps up, we're going to run out soon. We'll have to shut down in a couple of hours,' said Ulrich Schiefele, 38, the manager of a convenience store who sold 500 crates of 20 half-litre bottles in just a few hours.

'We knew England fans had a reputation for their great thirst, but this is just incredible,' he said, sweating as he tried to fill his large glass refrigerators with new supplies.

Beer was a new source of gold for the depressed mining town, as 70,000 England fans wearing their red and white national colours all seemed to have a cup of ale in their hands.

'They're carrying this stuff out of here faster than we can bring in it,' Schiefele said, ordering an assistant to 'toss the damn water out of the fridge, no one's drinking it!'

London banker Shaun McAndrews, 43, said the England fans converging on Gelsenkirchen had a clear objective.

'We'll drink you dry,' said McAndrews, who left his banker's three-piece suit at home and donned the standard England fan look - no shirt and shorts. 'We're going to drink it all up.'

Zdenka Tunjic, chief waitress at the 'Brauhaus Hibernia', said she was not worried about running dry but found it odd that the English kept scraping the foam off.

'We've got our own brew master in house and a brewery downstairs,' said Tunjic, 35. Some 400 fans were standing orderly in line when it opened at 0900, she said.

'We're got a 1,500-litre supply,' she added. That was four times the amount sold on match days for the local Schalke 04 team.

'Once we've sold the first 1,000 litres, we can make more quickly. We're ready for them. They won't drink us dry.'

Michi, a bartender at the 'Restaurant International', said there was only one item on the menu being ordered: beer.

'We're got supplies for eight litres per Englishman,' he said. 'I can't imagine we'd run out with that much in store.'

David Harris, a lorry driver from Cleehill, Shropshire, did not have a ticket to the match but said that did not matter.

'As long as the beer keeps flowing, I'll be alright,' said Harris, 35. 'The Germans are being very hospitable.'