When The Banter meets ze Germans……………………….

19 11 2013

When articles like these start to appear…..

“Joachim Löw denies showing hosts a lack of respect by selecting under-strength team.”

“England v Germany: Steven Gerrard humbled as he prepares to equal Bobby Moore’s cap record of 108.”

“England v Germany: We’re better than 2010, says Steven Gerrard”

“We’ll deliver this time! Gerrard certain there will be no repeat of crushing 4-1 defeat inflicted by Germany at World Cup 2010”

When tweets like these start to appear…….;

@itvfootball  Video: Relive England’s stunning 5-1 victory in Germany – how good was this? http://www.itv.com/sport/football/article/2013-11-18/classic-video-germany-1-5-england/

@_MickeyPreedy  It’s never ‘just a friendly’ against Germany. words can’t describe how much I hate Germans.

@SamKopelowitz_ Off to watch England to get my revenge from WW2 #Nazis

@EwanAldridge1 England vs the Nazis tonight Clapping hands signFlexed biceps

@ JoshEndOfDays Weekends with no prem league or championship football are so uninteresting. England v Nazis should be a good one though

@ SmiffysBar 4 days until I go toe to toe with the nazis at Wembley…7th visit to New Wembley, 5 for Pompey and Tuesday, England…who was the first ?

……… you just know that England are about to play “ze Germans”.

This is yet another irritating example of what happens when willing dupes allow a media industry, with a certain worldview and a habit of turning miniscule details in to major problems, to do their thinking for them. In this case the willing dupes have allowed footy to become so bloody important.

In reality, and rather amusingly, the hated rivals of the willing dupes don’t quite feel the same about the “rivalry”;

German football expert Uli Hesse explains that the enmity is only felt on one side

1966 and all that: The start of a big rivalry or a storm in a tea cup? 

Some seven years ago, I zigzagged across the southern part of England as Germany – or more precisely, as a representative of German football.

Ahead of the 2006 World Cup, the Goethe Institute sent ambassadors to England for discussions, lectures and interviews in order to prepare the interested public – and of course the travelling England supporters – for the tournament’s host country. My job was to tell them a bit about our fan culture and alleviate their fears that there would be trouble.

In London, someone called Mark put me up in his home. By way of a reception, he said: “What time is it?” Taken by surprise, I mumbled something about not having a watch but didn’t even get to the end of the sentence before he exclaimed: “It’s five to one!” 

Now I was utterly confused, as it was clearly late afternoon. Mark tried to give me two helping hands by showing me five fingers with his left hand and just the index finger on his right. “It’s five to one!,” he gleefully repeated before triumphantly adding: “In Munich!” 

It still took me a few seconds. It’s not – or not just – that I’m a tad slow-witted. It’s also, and I know how hard this is to take because I can still remember the look on Mark’s face when I informed him, that Germans have all but forgotten about that 5-1 defeat in September 2001 .

It’s not forgetfulness born of shame and pain, though. Many people have erased this World Cup qualifier from their memory simply because it had no relevance; Germany survived the play-offs and went to the World Cup after all.

Mark seemed somewhat hurt by my explanation. He felt that the game in Munich had been more than just another World Cup qualifier but a game between fierce rivals. Naturally, I was aware that the English felt quite strongly about playing Germany, not least because I had been at this 2001 match in Munich on an assignment for FourFourTwo. The magazine wanted to feature the qualifier in its “More than a game” series. 

The problem was that it was more than a game only for the English. The German fans I spoke to all expressed respect and even sympathy for England and English football. One went as far as telling me: “Actually, I’d rather lose against England than against any other team!” That these were not just empty words became obvious shortly after the final whistle. 

The German fans were shocked and embarrassed at having lost 5-1, but then news were making the rounds that the Dutch had been defeated in Dublin. Suddenly total strangers began to embrace and the pub where I had gone for the post-match drink shook with a defiant and heart-felt rendition of “We’re going to the World Cup without Holland!”

There are some subtle signs that now, a decade on, we could be about to develop a heated football rivalry with Italy. But back in 2001, the Dutch were still the team a German national coach wasn’t allowed to lose to. These hostilities stemmed from the 70s and 80s. Prior to that Germany’s traditional rivals were Austria and, to a lesser degree, France. 

England, however, wasn’t and isn’t on anyone’s rivalry radar. Part of the reason is that Germans have always admired English football culture and have copied many aspects of it. On my 2006 travels, we almost always ultimately agreed that there were many similarities between the English and the Germans.

My first trip took me to Exeter, where I was to meet England supporters at St James’ Park. As we were waiting for the event to begin, an elderly man who I suppose was the groundskeeper came over to us.

“You’re from Germany?,” he asked. I said I was, whereupon he furrowed his brow and said: “Your guys bombed the harbour during the war.” I thought “Oh no, here we go again” and didn’t quite know what to say. Suddenly his face broke into a grin. “That was the best thing that ever happened to Exeter,” he said. And then he bought me a beer.”

In the light of English pleas for finally getting it right this time it was rather refreshing to see photos of Germany’s players using the Underground to get to training at Wembley on twitter;

germany

When you consider the media coverage of the English team it’s not difficult to work out why some people aren’t exactly unhappy when England lose.

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