Even in toyland, football rules

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The Independent Online

The most famous Danish company in Britain did not really want to show the football. There were no signs at the front gate of Legoland, near Windsor, so visitors had to corner one of the attendants in brightly coloured uniforms to ask if it could be seen anywhere. "You have got a screen, haven't you mate?" enquired a coach driver who had just brought a pack of Brownies halfway across England.

The most famous Danish company in Britain did not really want to show the football. There were no signs at the front gate of Legoland, near Windsor, so visitors had to corner one of the attendants in brightly coloured uniforms to ask if it could be seen anywhere. "You have got a screen, haven't you mate?" enquired a coach driver who had just brought a pack of Brownies halfway across England.

He was directed down to the other end of the 150-acre park, past a miniature Wembley stadium and other great buildings of the world reproduced in three million Lego bricks, behind the Chairoplane, through a gate and into a tent usually reserved for corporate hospitality.

"We thought people would not want to pay £20 each to get in, then sit and watch the football," said Rhiannon Parr, a spokeswoman for Legoland. "But there were so many calls this week from parents that we had to reconsider."

The opposition was Denmark, after all. Many of those who run the amusement park are Danish, and students come over during the summer. A dozen Danes sat together in the staff canteen yesterday, waving paper flags and adjusting to defeat.

"Never mind," said Jonas Christofferson, a 21-year-old from Copenhagen who is about to take a Lego management course. "The English take their football much more seriously than us. We have a more relaxed attitude."

Over in Copenhagen the mood matched the weather. As 20,000 Danes watched their team's drubbing by England on a giant TV screen on Radhuspladsen, the City Hall square, there was a deluge of rain, turning the square into a very large puddle.

Both at the square and the Parken national stadium, where another 30,000 had gathered, some frustrated, rain-drenched fans had virtually abandoned hope by half-time when the scoreline stood 0-3 to England.

Elsewhere, the downbeat mood was matched by deserted streets. "There has been a huge interest in the tournament," said Britain's ambassador to Denmark, Mr Philip Astley. "The country was completely dead." But he believes that, in contrast to English fans, Danes will be forgiving. "The expectations were rather different here. The team that returns will be the team that knocked the French out, rather than the team that was beaten by England."

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