…Or how to wind-up an ultimately disappointing series of repeated articles posted online while there is little football to write about…
Ok. I’m skipping the foreplay and the pleasantries.
Get in my time machine.
We’re going back one year exactly. And you better enjoy it.
The temperature in Germany’s capital hit 40 degrees yesterday afternoon. For someone from Whitley Bay (with hair the colour of an African Sunrise), the heat was unbearable, and aside picking up the essentials (beer), I chose not to venture from the house. As such, I have no real interesting impressions on how excited Berlin was about the game with which to start this article. I could make something up, but that would be lying, and probably shit anyway, so, instead, I’ll start with a Paul the Octopus update…
Paul became public enemy number one after Spain dismantled the young German team earlier in the week. Seemingly on the Fan Mile during and after the Spain game, fans turned against their former hero, singing anti-octopus songs. Newspapers reported on threats to Paul’s life. Even the Spanish Prime Minister was concerned, offering to send a protective team to guard the octopus. It’s only an octopus!!
On my beer mission – sorry – I mean, on my journey for the essentials – I did notice that about half of the German flags that had lined the streets were gone (although the giant Holland flag of a neighbour was still proudly draped over their balcony). As I switched on the TV to watch the build-up, the show’s focus alternated between a review of the World Cup (as if it had already finished), and a review of Gunter Netzer’s career as a TV analyst. Some readers may remember him as midfielder for Borussia Mönchengladbach, Real Madrid and Germany (I don’t, although I had heard of him), but he is almost a cult-figure in German football broadcasting. Think Alan Hansen, but even grumpier. He argues constantly with the presenter, and often replies with one word answers. Perhaps his most famous moment in his second career was in 2003, when then-German manager Rudi Völler showered him with abuse live on TV after Netzer had criticised his team following a 0-0 draw in Iceland.
So, I left the house an hour early to go to the KulturBrauerei in the centre of the city. Due to a lack of fore-planning, and running on gut instinct, I took us in the wrong direction several times, trying to connect to public transport routes that only existed in my head. We made it, stressed and hot (the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees), just in time for kick-off.
Opened in 1842 as a brewery, and extended in 1878, the KulturBrauerei is now a complex of nightclubs and small businesses. The screening was held in the large open space between several of the clubs. There were only about 400 people there (including a family of Uruguayans), and only about a third of the people there were dressed in German colours, and there were few flags present. There didn’t seem to be the sense of excitement, or even nerves, as there had been at the earlier games. It seemed more of a duty than a pleasure to watch their exciting young team, now that they could no longer win the World Cup.
Anyway, onto the game that wasn’t a game. The match was very entertaining, but there was no real atmosphere at all, aside from when the goals were scored. Gone was the singing of previous games. Obviously everyone wanted Germany to win, but no-one seemed to care that much. The emotions never peaked as high, or fell as low, as they had earlier in the tournament. It wasn’t until around the hour mark until the atmosphere started picking up, with a few songs and more cheering as the crowd seemed to sense that their World Cup would be over in half an hour (although judging by the lack of people there, I would assume many thought the World Cup had already ended when they lost to Spain). At the final whistle there was a cheer, and then people started to leave. It was a very anti-climactic end for the World Cup, for Germany, and certainly not the one many were predicting after the team destroyed Australia (and later England and Argentina). However this is a German team that the country can be proud of, having came 3rd for a second consecutive World Cup (with a runners-up place at Euro 2008), and one that will only get better as the young players develop. Perhaps this is Germany’s Multicultural Golden Generation coming through (although, as an Englishman, the term ‘Golden Generation’ brings back memories of disappointment and embarrassment).
Although Germany will watch the final, Germans will be more concerned with Jogi Löw’s contract situation – his contract has now expired, and talks have been in progress most of this year about extending it. For Berlin, and Germany, the World Cup ended last night, even though Spain and Holland play today. Sports betting is not as widespread in Germany, but I would suggest that Berliners could do a lot worse than put a few cheeky Euros on Spain to win. After all, the octopus says it is so…