Giessen football team's Sigonella trip still on after plane ticket problems
October 6, 2006
Talk about a fourth-quarter rally.
A purchasing snafu involving airline tickets and the Giessen High School football team nearly led to the sacking of Sigonella’s homecoming game this weekend. In fact, Giessen school officials told players’ parents Thursday morning the game was being canceled — only to reverse themselves after some fancy footwork and a few Hail Marys.
“They managed to get tickets in Sigonella,” said a relieved Walter Ulrich, assistant principal at Giessen Middle/High School in Germany.
Both Ulrich and a spokesman for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe attributed the, well, fumble to fiscal year-end finances. The 2007 fiscal year began this past Sunday.
“You can’t spend money in one fiscal year for travel that occurs in the next fiscal year,” said Dennis Bohannon, spokesman for DODDS-Europe.
Apparently, the travel agency that the Giessen school transportation office dealt with didn’t — or wouldn’t — hold the tickets the office had reserved when it tried to pay for them earlier this week.
Bohannon said the timing of the payment, roughly $20,000, and the new fiscal year in conjunction with the use of a government credit card proved more confusing than a weak-side safety blitz.
In the end, Giessen’s counterpart in Sigonella made some calls to Alitalia, the Italian airline, and the reservations were restored.
“The game is back on,” Bohannon said. “It has not been canceled. The team will be leaving tomorrow [Friday] morning.”
To be fair, Giessen wasn’t the only school this week caught up in this ticket trap.
“We went through that as well this week,” said Robert Stovall, head football coach at the high school in Rota, Spain. “Same issues, same problems.”
Unlike other schools, Rota doesn’t have much of a choice but to fly its high school athletes to sporting events when they are the away team. This weekend the Rota Admirals line up against the Alconbury Dragons in England.
But for the Giessen Griffins, this is the only away game this season that necessitates air travel. And unless the military does an about-face, it will likely be the final road game for the football team ever. The military community in Giessen is scheduled to close soon as part of the overall transformation of forces and bases in Europe.
“We’re not a winning football team. That’s not a secret,” said Cheryl Burns, whose son, Brock, is a freshman on the team. “We’ve lost every game so far this year, but that is not the point.”
The point, of course, is participation, competition and teamwork.
In Sigonella, the school’s athletic director was just happy the matter got resolved and the game is on. After all, it is homecoming week and events are planned. The Jaguars even have new uniforms for the occasion, though, for a while, it looked as if they were going to be worn for an intra-squad game.
“We have a great group of kids,” said Amy Driscoll, the school’s athletic director. “They handled it fine.”