Hello. This is Mark. I’m currently in Germany, doing some work that won’t interest anyone reading this. Shannen asked me to blog something on forgetful if anything interesting happened. I’m not sure if this qualifies, but here it is anyway…
So I’m in Aachen, Germany for two weeks. It’s a great little town right near the German/Dutch border, with a bustling nightlife. I have no idea what the industry is here other than pubs, and possibly a university. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’m here during a rather crucial two weeks during the World Cup, being played in South Africa, which happens to be in the same time zone as Germany. Every German or Dutch victory has yielded a night long party of vuvuzela blowing and random yelling outside my hotel. As a result of this, even if I had no prior feelings about football, my current relatively sleepless nights would have me actively cheering against the Dutch and the Germans, just to shut them up. Unfortunately, I have prior feelings about the Germans.
I’ve hated the German soccer team my whole life (sorry Sonja). For as long as I can remember, they’ve displayed this sort of unhappy dominance over the world of international soccer. Yes, it’s amazing to watch for a purely results-based, logical point of view, but it’s not fun soccer. They’re the anti-Brazil. They’re sort of like Evan Lendl – amazingly talented, super efficient, always unemotional; a purely robotic athletic machine (yes, I know Lendl was Czech, and that one of his biggest rivals was Boris Becker, a relatively fun-loving German. that’s neither here nor there – he seemed German). To a non-German, and someone who’s “second nation” is and has always been England, the German team are and always have been the enemy (along with Argentina. and the dirty French).
In the Aachen city square, they’ve been showing the German and Dutch World Cup games on huge TVs, with beer and sausages being sold all over the place – I went to the last Dutch game, and there must have been a few thousand people there. Prior to the match, a playlist of that silly Shakira world cup song, “waving flag” by K’Naan, and (inexplicably) a cover of “seven nation army” by the White Stripes was played on an unending loop for an hour. It seemed like I was the only person who noticed or cared how annoying this was. In fact, most people (just about everyone in the square was under 25) were singing and dancing to all 3 songs each time they came on. This did nothing but fuel my belief that groups of drunk people, regardless of age or nationality, are AWFUL to be around (particularly if you’re not also drunk).
Anyway, as luck would have it, today England and Germany played in an elimination game in the World Cup. I decided to avoid the city square, hoping to avoid the silly drunks, the AWFUL playlist, and also to avoid getting stabbed if I cheered too loudly, if/when England won. I elected to watch the match at the Irish pub where I’d watched games the last 3 nights (also happens to be the only place in town that sells Chimay).
I showed up alone about an hour before the match started, in order to secure a good seat. An Irish guy sat down beside me, and we discussed the game and who we thought would win (surprisingly, he was cheering for England – his World Cup aspirations were complete as soon as France lost). He thought England would win based on their experience in big situations, and the relative youth of this German team. It only occurred to me later to ask him what big situations he was referring to – I couldn’t remember an English team in my lifetime beating anyone of significance. He gave it some thought and eventually agreed. I think everyone else at the bar was German.
Germany jumped out to an early 2-0 lead (according to the Irish guy, it was all because John Terry was playing like a total wanker). I basically gave up at that point, but he assured me the game was far from over. Sure enough, England scored soon after, causing me to jump up, yell “YEAH!” and begin clapping, feel the eyes of all the Germans around me turn and stare, then, like a good Canadian, apologize profusely for causing a disturbance.
England scored again almost immediately, only the referee didn’t call it a goal. (Seriously, this isn’t sour grapes, the ball was in, and it didn’t count because the ref and linesmen didn’t see it. It was ridiculous). I don’t know how “the world’s game” doesn’t include any sort of goal-mouth yay/nay technology, but it doesn’t, so instead of being 2-2 at half, it was 2-1 Germany. The Irish guy finally showed some doubt in England – “that could be a game changing play, right there”.
I’ll spare the dramatics. He was right. Germany scored two more goals almost immediately in the second half, and the game was over, 4-1 Germany.
I’m crushed. Not just because the English team (my second most favourite team in all of sports after the Canadian hockey team) was destroyed again by a superior opponent, but because now I won’t be getting any sleep tonight, and I’ll have to deal with the snide, cutting remarks from the Germans I’m working with for the next few days (at least until Argentina crushes them this week). Brutal. Just brutal.
Following the game, I also came to an unsettling conclusion about the English soccer team. Having one of the most rabid set of fans, as well as the ridiculous British press cover their every move, expectations are always sky high, regardless of talent. The current team is always “the best ever”, and always the team that will finally deliver another World Cup. Forget the fact that 95% of this team didn’t even qualify for the last Euro Cup (like the World Cup, but only for European teams), expectations are that this is a top team in the world, capable of beating anyone. Only, the results NEVER back up this belief.
It occurred to me that this is what it must be like to cheer for the Maple Leafs.