The German opposition (Andreas Hildebrandt)
We had a new landlord at the Greyhound only a matter of weeks before the Championships was due to take place. He soon had a ‘baptism of fire’, there was the usual deluge of phone calls - needing to know what’s happening, the when, where and the how of marbles. By the time Good Friday arrived we had had all sorts of enquiries and a lot of media interest. From the Press Association, to Reuters, the BBC and an assortment of TV Production companies wanting to make programmes about the Marbles.
Only a few teams (four in fact) had registered before the day, so we didn’t quite know who might turn up to play.
The day started early and the weather was fine, as usual the day began with radio interviews – letting the world know what was going to happen on this very special day. By 9.30am the German teams began to arrive and many old friends were welcomed and new players met for the first time. There were more interviews and the media descended on us in force. Sky News brought a satellite dish and began live broadcasts from the car park. The BBC production team walked round lining up shots and talking to both organisers and players. The press photographers and reporters came to the press office and set up lap top computers to email words and pictures back to their newspapers etc.
The British team players started to turn up at about 10.15am, one of them, Darren Ray, had ridden an old 1930s post office bike over 150 miles to attend. There was a rumour going round that the British had been practising to win back the trophy lost to a German team last year and that Darren had discovered a new method of shooting his tolley.
There were 20 teams registered for the draw, five from Germany and fifteen from Britain. The games started at about 10.45, as soon as we had two complete teams in the draw available to play each other.
For later broadcast on television we had been asked to allow 2 presenters, Mark Speight and Dave Little of Fool Britannia to play in opposing teams in a genuine match. The Johnson Jets agreed to incorporate Dave in their team against a scratch team aptly calling themselves Dazed & Confused. Joining Mark and three young ladsas members of Dazed & Confused were another BBC presenter Chris Packham and the Mayor of Crawley, Les Hench. The final score was 21 marbles to the Johnson Jets, semi finalist of 2002, and 18 to Dazed & Confused, at least half of whom had never played before!! This was one of the best matches of the day.
4 British and 4 German teams reached the 1/4 finals, each meeting a team from their own country, thus ensuring that each of the semi-finals was a clash between the two countries. The shock came when it was two German teams that went on to win. This made it an all German final for the first time ever. The final was one of the best matches with the result 27 marbles to 19. Three players had breaks of 10 and the game was over in one and a half rounds.