21 July, 2014

Weltmeister! World Cup Champions!

This post is about a week overdue, but here goes...

In case you didn't know, GERMANY WON THE WORLD CUP!! We are Weltmeister! (World champions.) This is a really huge deal. The World Cup is THE sporting event in Germany, and to be able to be in Germany when they won was amazing.

When the World Cup games started, I wasn't too interested. I watched a few games here and there, usually when either the US or Germany was playing, but my heart wasn't really in it. Then when Germany continued to advance and it seemed like they might have a good shot at winning, my interest was piqued, especially after Germany completely steamrolled Brazil in the semi-final. (Germany won that game 7-1, with the first 5 German goals being scored in the first 30 minutes of the game. Brazil didn't stand a chance.)

Then, with the final approaching and the entire country on edge, a stroke of luck: a friend of mine told me she had an extra ticket for the broadcast of the final game at the Karlsruhe soccer stadium. I jumped at the chance. What better place to watch the final game than in a stadium filled with enthusiastic fans? I honestly didn't really care who won the game for the sake of soccer (I'm not really into sports), but I really wanted Germany to win because I wanted to see a city filled with people who DO care for the sake of soccer celebrate winning the most important soccer title on the planet.

There was great energy at the stadium, and there was no shortage of gigantic screens to watch the game on. In the picture below you can see three of the screens, and there was also one farther to the right that this picture didn't capture.
We were sitting pretty close to front, around where you can see a guy in a white shirt standing up toward the bottom right of the photo.

They spared no expense when it came to making sure everyone had a great view. The main screen that we watched was hung from a huge crane.

 Below is my view of the crowd from my seat. For some reason they only filled up half the stadium, so this is about half the people who were there.

In true German style, we enjoyed some beer and bratwurst while we watched the game. The only goal in the whole game didn't come until it had gone into extra time, so we were on the edge of our seats and it was quite tense for a while. Then, when Germany finally scored, the crowd went wild! I was just as swept up in the excitement as everyone else, and we all cheered and shouted and hugged each other and high-fived. It was a great moment. And then when the game officially came to an end and the score was Germany 1 - Argentina 0, the crowd went nuts all over again. There was loud music, people were leading chants, we were dancing and cheering, and the atmosphere was great. I took a video, but it doesn't really capture the best of it because people had already significantly calmed down by this point.
After the game, the energy continued. I biked from the stadium to Maxim's frat house with two of my friends, and the whole time we passed crowds of shouting and cheering people on the sidewalk and the road was a mass of constant car horns and people waving German flags out of car windows. I didn't even go to the center of the city, which is where some of my friends went after the game, and I bet it was even crazier there.

Something that was interesting in the entire lead-up to the final game was the unusual displays of patriotism that could be seen everywhere. As I mentioned in a previous post (read that post HERE), displays of patriotism such as German flags are very rare, since the German people still remember when blatant displays of patriotism and nationalist symbols were used as propaganda in support of the Nazis. However, soccer seems to be the exception to the rule and is the one instance in which strong support for Germany as a nation and obvious symbols of this support are acceptable. I saw more German flags during the World Cup than I had ever seen in my life. People had flags hanging out their windows, had German colors on their cars (especially popular were covers for side mirrors in German colors), and proudly wore German soccer jerseys and Hawaiian leis in German colors during every German game. There are still people who hesitate to participate in such displays and find them anywhere from unnecessary to potentially dangerous, but for the most part people are proud of Germany's achievements on the soccer field and want to show their support. (For the German speakers reading this, CLICK HERE for an article from Spiegel Online discussing some of the opposition to patriotic displays for the World Cup.)

I'm glad that I was able to be in Germany when they won the World Cup, and I was surprised even myself by how contagious the World Cup fever was. I'm the type of person that normally watches one sporting event per year (the Super Bowl), so the fact that I watched even the small number of World Cup games that I did is a testament to how much power the World Cup has in Germany. We'll all have to wait another four years for the next chance, but in the meantime there's the European Cup in two years to look forward to!

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