Jul 11, 2014
I used to hate soccer. Excuse me, I meant to say football. Nobody says soccer here (soccer/football is fußball in German) so neither will I.
I blame the World Cup for changing my attitude towards the sport I was never good at. It’s simply impossible not to get caught up in all the hoopla here, especially since football is so much more than a sport in Germany. One need only attend a Public Viewing to experience the indescribable energy and passion these football fans have. At the moment, not one of my students hasn’t been keeping up with Germany’s progress in the World Cup. Football is to Germany what hockey is to Canada: respectively, the two are inseparable. Football is very much ingrained in German culture.
I remember when Italy won the World Cup back in 2006. I was living in Woodbridge at the time so you can only imagine how crazy it was. Last weekend I Skyped with an old friend of mine who still lives in the GTA, and his insight on World Cup fever this year back home was on point. He said to me, “Everybody over here is suddenly Brazilian or Argentinien or Dutch right now.” I don’t doubt it. Eight years ago during the World Cup, everyone in Woodbridge was suddenly Italian even though on any other day they would have deemed themselves Canadian or Canadian-Italian at best. Do Canadians do this because we don’t have a national football team that's good enough to compete in the World Cup? Whatever the reason is, I find it amusing.
In Germany, it’s a different story. On an international level, Germany's national football team has always been a strong competitor. Germany also isn’t currently what I’d consider an immigrant country. Deciding what country to root for in the World Cup isn't a difficult decision for Germans to make.
What I believe it comes down to is this: Germans feel comfortable expressing pride in their country particularly every four years. Patriotism is a touchy topic in Germany. This isn't the US; it's awkward and inappropriate for someone to hang a German flag on their porch unless it's World Cup time. As absurd as this may sound to a Canadian, Germans generally have a hard time showing pride in being German.
But I'm hopeful that things will change in this country. It already has. The younger generations these days feel less and less of a connection with the hardships of WWII, and rightly so. In an ideal world, Germans wouldn't be afraid of showing pride in their culture/nationality all year round. For one, everybody knows they have the strongest economy in Europe right now. Furthermore, speaking from experience a decent standard of living can be had here, even for the average citizen like myself. So what's not to be proud of?
Perhaps the reason why I've been bitten by the World Cup bug only now is because I can't resist wanting to be a part of it all. On Sunday night, the World Cup Finale takes place and even if Argentina deserves it just as much as Germany does, I'll be rooting for the latter. It's incredible that through sport, Germans can come together and forget about their past even if it's only for a few weeks. I just wish they were able to do that without relying on football. Call me selfish for wanting Germany to win, but all I'd really like to experience is the epitome of what German unity and national pride looks like.