This is what the German idyll looks like today: a narrow, cobblestone street, benches lined up in front of picnic tables loaded with beer and a large, flat screen TV mounted on the outside wall of an old house. The match is the United States versus the Czech Republic. A scarf embroidered with the word Deutschland hangs over the entrance to Pohlmann's, a pub in the town of Königstein im Taunus.
The benches are full. One man wears six skull rings on one hand. Another man knows everything there is to know about soccer, untiringly explaining it all to his wife. Each time the bartender opens a bottle of Hefeweizen, his novelty bottle opener screeches "Tooor" ("Goooal"). Everyone laughs. Every time.
People walking up the narrow street to the town's castle duck as they pass the flat screen TV, or if they don't they glance guiltily at the man with the six skull rings. They know that every second of football counts these days. A Dalmatian lies under a bench, its coat a reflection of the colors of Germany's national colors. German and Brazilian flags hang in windows lining the street.
When the dog's nose begins to twitch, its owner says: "Someone's about to shoot a goal." Sure enough, Tomás Rosicky promptly shoots the Czech Republic's second goal of the match. Everyone claps. The Dalmatian settles down again, but later neglects to announce Czech player Rosicky's goal, bringing the score to 3:0. The sun slowly sets, marking the end of another nice day.
Football currently dominates practically every corner of the country. It's captured the hearts and minds of Germans, transforming the country into a different place, into some enchanted, summer fairytale version of itself, a spellbound, happy land united under a black, red and gold banner. There hasn't been a bigger party in Germany since November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall came down. Back then the Germans were celebrating with themselves. Today they're celebrating with themselves and the world.
Germany experienced its greatest World Cup moment of ecstasy to date when the German team beat Poland 1:0 in Dortmund last Wednesday. It was the perfect drama, a long trot to the finish line, causing endless anxiety and hope and, finally, relief in the form of a goal scored in overtime by Oliver Neuville. The ensuing uproar was probably the biggest Germany has ever heard.
Taking the party to the fan fests
But Dortmund's Westfalen Stadium wasn't the only place where fans were celebrating. Half Germany had gathered around the giant screens set up in various locations throughout the country. Five hundred thousand people watched the match on Berlin's Strasse des 17. Juni. Shortly before kick-off, organizers locked the gates to Hamburg's Heiligengeistfeld, another projection site, shutting out 10,000 fans and locking in the 50,000 already inside. In Stuttgart, 70,000 viewers watched the live broadcast in front of the city's Neuer Schloss (new castle), a site authorities had originally wanted to approve for only 40,000. Traffic came to a standstill in downtown Hanover and the bleachers set up along the bank of the Main River in Frankfurt were filled to capacity.
The truckloads of German flags -- Made in China -- are almost sold out. Adidas has sold a million of the jerseys worn by the German national team -- four times the number sold during the last World Cup. Germans are wearing German colors once again.
The country is vibrating, literally humming. Anyone walking through its streets can hear the voices of TV commentators and the roar of the stadiums blaring from nearby windows.
The country is also more colorful than ever. In the host cities, the flags and jerseys of 32 countries blend together to form an image that must look like some Impressionist painting of a spring meadow when seen from far above.
And the country is friendlier than ever. The Germans, trying their best to be good hosts, are pampering their guests wherever they can. And -- suddenly -- Germany is cool.
Kirsten Bach and a few friends are lying on a patch of grass between Leipzig's train station and the city's Augustusplatz square. They're all around 20, and almost all are wearing small, painted-on images of German flags on their faces. Kirsten, whose left nostril and bellybutton are pierced, sports a German flag on her forehead. Instead of beer they're drinking water, and instead of singing raucous drinking songs they're listening to lounge music as it drifts across the lawn. A woman wearing a giant rubber condom on her head approaches the group from the train station and hands out samples. Kirsten says that she and her friends aren't really here for the football match per se, but for the atmosphere. She says that it's more relaxed here, a bit like Amsterdam or London's Hyde Park. Leipzig, she says, taking a moment to search for the right word, is "metropolitan."
Is it okay to be German and proud?
If one points at the German flag on her forehead and asks Kirsten whether she's proud to be German, she answers: "Naaah." But does it feel better to be a German now, during the World Cup? "Of course," she responds.
One could say that all of this is grand, and that we should just sit back and enjoy this festival. And yet there is one "but." There is always one significant "but" in Germany when it comes to Germany.
Isn't the constant display of black, red and gold flags in public areas and on TV screens a bit too much? Should Germans be singing their national anthem quite so fervently? Didn't the football hooligans who went on a rampage in Dortmund set out singing "Hooray, hooray, the Germans are here," only confirming many a German's distrust of these all-too ardent displays of German nationalism?
The Union of Education and Academic Employees already plans to distribute brochures warning against the dangers of singing the national anthem, charged as it is with a Nazi-tinged mood of German cultural dominance. Once again, Germany finds itself wrapped up in one of its never-ending debates over its own identity.
The question behind it all is whether this World Cup and the celebratory mood that goes with it will change Germany in a lasting way, whether it will encourage Germans to develop and display a new self-confidence. Another question is whether Germans can maintain this newly acquired sense of happy unity.
The search for answers begins among those whose principal job it is to change the country -- in Berlin's government district.
The World Cup comes at an opportune time for Germany's Grand Coalition government, which is led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. It's descended on the country at a time when the government is displaying its weaknesses by getting in its own way, by revealing a lack of decisiveness on major issues such as healthcare policy, or simply by enacting legislation like the laws it adopted last Friday, when the VAT (sales tax) rate was increased, the subsidy for commuters cut back and the subsidy for single family home ownership cancelled. These are the kinds of laws that would normally cause a storm of public controversy. But hardly anyone is paying attention these days. Indeed, the government could probably double the VAT rate and hardly anyone would be interested.
Government spokesman Thomas Steg is leaving an official press briefing. Normally, the briefings are attended by as many as 300, but today only 20 journalists bother to show up -- and they have few questions. Most are thinking only of the next World Cup match. Steg walks down the steps and leaves the room. "We might as well cancel these press conferences at the moment," he mumbles. He walks across the street to the MediaClub's open air space, an artificial beach on the Spree River, complete with a wading pool and a big screen that's currently showing the Spaniards demolishing the Ukrainians. After consulting briefly with the chancellor, Steg sits down on a red lounge chair and rolls up his sleeves.
He says it's true that the country is filled with an amazing sense of lightness and lightheartedness, that Germans, even politicians, are apparently unable to tear themselves away from such a monumental world event.
When the chancellor opens the morning's cabinet meeting, she first mentions Ronaldo, the Brazilian player whose weight problems have apparently been discussed by none other than Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva. That, at least, was what Chancellor Angela Merkel says she gathered at the previous evening's match in Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Only then does she turn to the issue of parents' subsidies.
Steg says that politics has its own rhythm, that it's impervious to outside influences and that the business of governing hasn't changed. On the other hand, he adds, it would be wrong to believe that politicians could use the World Cup for their own purposes, and that the public's enthusiasm could somehow be diverted into the political arena. "The fears and worries of people may be fading somewhat into the background at the moment," says Steg. "But that'll be over soon. It isn't something one can build upon."
Light-heartedness and passion
The federal press conference that truly matters these days takes place almost daily at Berlin's ICC convention center, currently doubling as the "German Football Association Media Center." This is where German national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann speaks with journalists. This where the sentences are uttered that are currently transfixing Germany. And this is where patriotism is both celebrated and encouraged.
Before Wednesday's match against Poland, Klinsmann made the following statement at the Media Center: "It's nice to see that we have a common dream. I'm familiar with this from the United States. On Independence Day, July 4th, everyone displays flags. It's a good thing. That's when I display my German flag."
Is Klinsmann Americanizing all of Germany now? He's already done it with his team, installing an American fitness program and an American corporate identity ideology. Although it's been ridiculed, it turns out that Klinsmann's program has probably been a boon for German football.
Few abroad would have thought the Germans capable of this new combination of light-heartedness and passion. In the past, German football teams have played the game unimaginatively, doggedly obsessed with the result, a stance that has earned Germany's footballers the nickname "the Tanks" in England, Spain and Italy. But this time the Germans have surprised everyone, including themselves, by demonstrating that they're also capable of a different approach: playing for victory, but with energy, with speed and with imagination.
Is Germany capable of reforming itself after all? This is exactly what Jürgen Klinsmann wanted: a Germany that plays the game and doesn't build walls. A Germany that isn't crippled by fear of failure, a Germany that takes to the stage filled with hope and spurred on by an idea. An enthusiastic Germany on the pitch and an enthusiastic Germany in the stands. "The mood in Germany is gigantic, one big party in every city," Klinsmann said after his team's 1:0 victory over Poland, after leaping ecstatically from the coach's bench and after the final whistle. "These are moments we will not forget."
The team now represents the center, beaming its good spirits out into the country. Klinsmann, whose only real star player is Michael Ballack, wanted to forge a collective unit, a goal he has managed to achieve, at least to some extent. And as long as the team remains successful, the country remains unified.
A sense of unity has indeed taken hold in Germany. It's a new sensation for a country in which the public debate in recent months has focused on seemingly irreconcilable differences. On a lower class out of touch with society. On immigrants who are having trouble adjusting to their host country's customs. On Germans from the former East Germany who still haven't found their place in German society. But these groups are now finding themselves unified during the World Cup, both in stadiums and in the crowds that have been gathering to watch the matches on giant screens throughout the country.
The match is in its 64th minute as the fans in the stands realize that the German team needs some support. The score is 0:0, the Poles seem to be getting stronger and the match could very well turn in their favor.
Suddenly, from somewhere in the upper tiers along the eastern curve of the stadium, someone shouts "Deutschland, Deutschland," soon the entire stadium takes up the chant, and suddenly young David Odonkor appears on the screen. He's being sent in to replace another player, and the fans in the stadium jump to their feet, yelling and stomping their feet.
This isn't Westfalen Stadium in Dortmund. It's the Arena in Berlin. Adidas built a smaller version of Berlin's Olympic Stadium on the meadow in front of the Reichstag building, a stadium made of plastic and steel and with artificial turf, with an upper tier and a lower tier and enough seats for about 10,000 fans. Tickets went for 3 -- officially, that is.
Shortly before kickoff, large numbers of fans carrying small cardboard boxes stood at the entrance looking for tickets. The words "For the German People" sparkled above the entrance to the Reichstag in the glow of early evening, kick-off was getting closer and ticket scalpers were upping their prices.
Some fans ended up paying 40 a ticket, 40 for the privilege of watching football on a screen -- and not even to stare at a giant screen. Indeed, fans in every German living room probably have a better view of the game. But picture quality isn't the issue here.
Blurring the line between East and West
The issue is sharing emotions. Shortly before kickoff, as the TV cameras in Dortmund transmit the national anthem, everyone in the audience in Berlin gets up from their seats and sings along. Later they clap in unison, perform La Ola, Germany's version of The Wave, go wild, screech, quiver and celebrate.
Some have paid 3, others 30, just to share their emotions, to hear, see and feel the energy of the crowd. The big screen becomes a campfire, a place to gather round in search of warmth, and football becomes glue that's holding together a society coming apart at the seams. For the duration of a championship, everyone is interested in the same thing, everyone from welfare recipients to investment bankers to intellectuals. The boundaries of social class have become blurred in the excitement over football.
The excitement has also erased the differences between East and West, with many from the East suddenly realizing that they too are German citizens. Joachim Erfurt stands among several thousand fans hemmed in by two giant screens on Leipzig's Augustusplatz. He is a gaunt, sickly, 45-year-old man with sunken cheeks and an unruly-looking beard.
Augustusplatz is familiar territory for Erfurt, who often attends Monday protest marches against the infamous welfare-reform bill known as Hartz IV that has resulted in painful benefit cuts for the chronically unemployed. Erfurt is one of the few stalwarts who are still protesting against what they see as the unreasonable demands of a globalized Germany. But he isn't pleased about being a member of this group. In fact, he sees it as a membership that's been forced upon him by the German state.
Erfurt would much rather be part of something else, something positive, but he doesn't quite know what that intangible something is. And so, for the time being, he made his way to Leipzig's temporary gathering spot for football fans, bought himself a noisemaker, blew into it with the one good lung he has left, looked around and saw almost nothing but young people, including an astonishing number of girls and young women -- and vast numbers of German flags.
The mood wasn't aggressive, not even combative and certainly not as stuffy as it sometimes is among regulars at Erfurt's local pub. Instead, it was more of a party, a relaxed party to which everyone was invited, regardless of their nationality. A Spaniard played the German national anthem on his trumpet, Germans applauded Russian Cossacks and their "Ave Maria" and no one seemed upset by the Ukrainians who had traveled to Leipzig from Kiev in their powerful VW Touareg and were blaring their own national anthem into the city's pedestrian zone.
Erfurt liked what he was seeing and hearing. He wanted to be a part of it, and so he bought a black, red and gold garland of flowers and a cap proudly displaying the German flag, and now he seems a bit surprised to observe his own transformation from a critic to a champion of his own country. But he feels good. He feels that he belongs, even just a little.
It's a transformation that works particularly well in Leipzig, because Leipzig is one of the World Cup host cities. The Ukrainian team is staying in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, but aside from Leipzig the rest of eastern Germany has been excluded from the World Cup, with many eastern Germans forced to travel to the West to get a piece of the action.
The town of Neuruppin in the eastern state of Brandenburg also applied to become a team host city, and it seemed eminently qualified, with its new four-star hotel and Oberliga (major league) team football stadium, its proximity to Berlin, only 80 kilometers (50 miles) away and its appealing lakeside location. But no one came to Neuruppin. Togo's team opted for the Bavarian town of Wangen, the Argentineans stayed in Herzogenaurach near Nuremberg and the boys from Trinidad and Tobago chose Rotenburg/Wümme in Lower Saxony as their temporary home. All are small towns that have acquired their own little places in the sun because of the World Cup, liberal-minded, friendly villages that have suddenly turned international -- Global Villages, in a manner of speaking. But Neuruppin remains a Local Village, its inhabitants left to socialize with themselves.
The term "No-Go Area" was coined shortly before the World Cup began. It meant travel warnings, potential risks for foreigners and those who look like foreigners, areas that are best avoided -- all measures meant to avert racist attacks, especially those targeting World Cup tourists. The No-Go Area was enormous, reflecting old boundaries between East and West, cutting off the former East Germany and parts of East Berlin.
Neuruppin was part of that No-Go Area, clearly a deterrent for a potential World Cup team. And then came the tourist warnings. For the world, it may have been a "Time to Make Friends" in Germany, but not everywhere in Germany. It was a difficult situation for Neuruppin, one that may have prompted some to think twice about their involvement in the World Cup.
Town council member Erhard Schwierz decided that Neuruppin would be part of the World Cup after all. He built a garden on Karl Kurzbach Square in downtown Neuruppin, shaded by beautiful old chestnut trees and surrounded by a reed fence. He set up a big screen, two beer stands and a food stand flanked by a sign that reads: "Serving World Cup specialties daily. Today's specials. Ukraine: Ukrainian Soljanka. Poland: Krakow sausages with sauerkraut." It appears to have been the only way to bring the World Cup to Neuruppin -- by offering public viewing and World Cup fare. But in the end everything depends on the German team.
Schwierz broadcasts every game in his beer garden. He enlarged the area after Germany's match against Costa Rica, and Schwierz says he'll consider enlarging it even further once the preliminary round is over. But his beer garden isn't always full. It does pretty well when the Brazilians are playing, and German games are always a big draw. In Wangen, fans can cheer on Togo's team in a pinch, and in Rotenburg they can always root for Trinidad and Tobago. But Neuruppin only has its own team to support. Germany. As long as the team stays in the game, the World Cup isn't just for western Germans and eastern Germans won't feel left out. As long as German stays in, Neuruppin may be a Local Village, but it remains a German town.
The team is what's holding it all together, what's responsible for this sense of unity in a divided country. And nowhere is the collective yearning for victory greater than in the East, home to two of Germany's top players, Michael Ballack and Bernd Schneider.
It's a feeling that pervades this small city and its World Cup garden, a mood reflected in German flags, large and small, the made-up faces, the hats -- everything displaying Germany's colors: black, red and gold. It's a feeling of euphoria, of the excitement that comes with being a World Cup city in its own right -- and with patriotism. Erhard Schwierz says: "There's also a bit of pride at play here. I wouldn't have expected it."
Bringing Germany's Turks into the family
Erkan Akes could be saying something along the same lines. He's sitting in a building in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, pulling at his black, red and gold hat.
Germany is about to play Poland. Dozens of hands are waving money at Akes, 10, 50, 100 euro notes. They're the hands of men who look like the Germany of the future, darker and not as clean-shaven, and they're betting on this country, believing in its victory.
Akes takes the bills from their hands, glances at his computer screen and announces the odds. Each euro they bet on Germany will earn them €1.50 should Germany win -- not especially attractive odds -- while those confident in a Polish win will take home €7.50 for each euro they bet, if Poland prevails. But somehow they believe in Germany, and the small risk seems worth it -- almost a sure bet.
Akes doesn't place a bet on Germany. As an employee of the betting agency, he's prohibited from betting on any country, and perhaps it isn't such a bad rule, at least as far Akes is concerned. Akes doesn't like placing his bets on any one country. He was born 34 years ago in Erzincan, a town in Turkey's Kurdish East. At the time, his father had already been living in Germany for several years, working in construction in Wetzlar and later at a Berlin police department warehouse. Four months after the birth of his son, Akes's father brought his wife and children to Germany. At first glance, it's the classic Turkish immigrant story.
Akes comes across as a man who has arrived in a place but is still struggling to belong. Sometimes he refers to Germans as "we" and sometimes as "the Germans," as if he had nothing in common with these people. "I have an emotional connection to Germany," he says, waving his black, red and gold hat. "But this ill-considered patriotism, this 'We're the biggest, We're the strongest,' is something with which I cannot identify, neither in Germany nor in Turkey. I'm always thinking: Okay, guys, patriotism is all very well and good, but don't forget your history."
In a sense Akes is a man without a country. He'd like to have a German passport, and he'd be eligible. But he hasn't completed his military service in Turkey because, as he says, "I don't want to learn how to kill people." He's worried that if he abandons his Turkish citizenship, he'll be refused entry into Turkey for several years.
The German players -- with the exception of Podolski, a Polish citizen -- are singing the national anthem on the screen behind Akes. "I used to be crazy about the German team," says Akes, "I liked players like Breitner, Bein and Littbarski. But today they're just barely playing the game. The Germans are too unimaginative."
His words sound a bit nostalgic, a bit distanced. But when the match begins, Akes quickly walks into a back room, grabs a pack of cigarettes, lights one and begins smoking nervously. He yells at Bernd Schneider to "switch to the other side!" and he complains when Ballack fails to take control of the ball. He takes off his black, red and gold hat and wipes the sweat from his brow. When the Germans hit the bar twice in the 90th minute, he buries his head in his hands.
He looks like a man who has bet a lot of money on Germany. A few dozen Turkish and Arab men stand in front of Akes, under black, red and gold banners, glancing back and forth between two screens, one showing the match and the other the odds. They curse when the Germans make a mistake and yell out: "What the hell are you doing?" When Bad Oeynhausen native Friedrich replaces Odonkor, a half-Ghanaian, they yell: "It's about time."
When Neuville shoots the goal that clinches the game for Germany, and the Turks and Arabs throw their arms into the air and clench their fists, yelling "Yessss!" Akes returns from the back room and stares at the screen in amazement. He's missed the decisive moment of the match. "Germany wins," says Akes, the Turk who'd like to be a German, "and I'm in the john."
The match is over and once again Akes faces dozens of outstretched hands. The Turks are waving their money. Their country has won and they want their share.
The world's biggest youth hostel
Germany seems to have achieved a rare moment of unification these days, but it isn't just an inner unity that's taking shape here. As Germany comes together to celebrate the World Cup, it's also opening up and seeking unity with the rest of the world.
Ralph Huber is 41. He wears frameless glasses and a short-sleeved shirt. He's normally the managing director of Dortmund's Westfalenhallen convention space, an executive with an office in the organization's administration building. But now it's the World Cup, Germany is about to play Poland, and everything changes when it's the World Cup, even for Huber. Today Huber is playing the role of hostel director at the world's largest youth hostel. The buildings he manages have space for 4,000 fans a night, fans from 37 nations. His hostel is essentially a camp for football fans, a camp that brings together the world under one roof, on a stone floor under a ceiling crisscrossed with ventilation ducts.
Bunk beds, the kind the German military uses overseas, are set up in five of the convention center's buildings, with rickety plywood dividers providing minimal privacy between the beds.
Huber wanted it this way. He's spent the last year and a half planning the setup. "They're all together," he says. The fans come from the stadium, sleep next to each other, wake up next to each other, take showers and eat breakfast together on 1,500 chairs set up in Building 5.
Matias, 18, who has come here with his uncle from Rosario, Argentina and wants to watch his team play Serbia-Montenegro, is sleeping in bed number 7.25 A, next to a German and a New Zealander. At a table in Building 5, Tomohiro, 24, a student studying economics in Tokyo, is having a conversation with Werner Deeken, 58, a German office worker from Papenburg. Tomohiro drinks Bitburger Beer from a can and Werner Deeken smokes HB, a German cigarette brand. There's cheese, jam and honey for breakfast, but no cold cuts with pork. "We wanted to avoid conflict," says Huber, explaining the absence of pork. There is a meditation room on the first floor, and Dortmund's Catholic and Protestant congregation are jointly running a prayer room, which also features narrow prayer rugs complete with prayer benches.
Everything is working out exactly the way Huber had envisioned.
On the weekend the Swedes celebrated with fans from Trinidad and Tobago after their 0:0 tie. In the "Africa Center" set up in a basement room, the Swedes drank potent African beer and ate cooked bananas and cassava. The Africans, for their part, dined on bratwurst and Leberkäse.
In the evening, seven cheerful young men from southern Germany -- tradesmen, office workers -- check into the camp, an eight-hour drive behind them. They stay for three days, and they don't even have tickets for any of the matches. But they've come here to have "fun," as they say. They like to play cards, a game called "66," and they promptly convert their winnings into beer. But first they spray on deodorant and unpack their blankets and pillows in floral-print pillowcases, their football fan clothing, hats and inflatable novelty items. They pull out inflatable baseball bats in Germany's colors, hitting each other on the head and laughing, singing a hit by German pop star Udo Jürgens: "I've never been to New York, and I'm never been truly free."
Celebrating is liberating -- and Germany is in the process of liberating itself from itself. Germans have always been a bit dull company for themselves. By the Romantic Age, it was clear that Germany was doomed to an existence as a pensive, brooding nation, a cultural backwater obsessed with gloomy thoughts about itself.
All the good parties were elsewhere, a fact of life for young Germans -- who had been to New York, after all. They have long since experienced the lives of globalized partygoers, and now they've become the world's hosts. Cantankerous and gloomy is exactly what they don't want to be.
Connecting with fans
Globalization during a World Cup also means competition among the cultures of pleasure, and the Germans are doing their best to put on a good show. And as everyone in Germany would expect, the Cologners are probably Germany's most prolific partiers. As the exhausted Angola and Portugal teams played their match in Cologne, German fans enthusiastically sang "Viva Colonia." Then they stood up, clapped and shouted: "Stand up if you're German." The 10,000 Angolans in attendance apparently needed little convincing and, animated by the Germans' enthusiasm, stood up and clapped along with the crowd.
But Germany's World Cup fans reserved their warmest welcome for the Brazilians. Königstein im Taunus, the town near Frankfurt where the Brazilian team is staying, was immediately prepared to convert itself into a small Brazilian city. Practically every shop in Königstein is sporting Brazil's yellow and green colors, football posters adorn the castle overlooking the town and townspeople would probably have dressed up a nearby mountain to resemble Rio's Sugar Loaf Mountain if national park authorities had permitted it.
But even in the absence of a faux Brazilian peak, Königstein offers plenty of Brazilian cheer at a daily German-Brazilian festival held on its market square. A cart serving up local apple wine stands next to a cart selling traditional Brazilian Caipirinha, and the town's medieval streets are filled with the samba beat of drums accompanying scantily clad dancers on a small stage. Königstein's inhabitants stand in front of the stage, watching the dancers' gyrating hips and bouncing breast, perhaps all the while rethinking their own mating behavior.
Königstein may be the world's northernmost Brazilian city at the moment, but aside from dancers and the invisible football players, there are no Brazilians. The tourists who were expected to converge on the town to visit their team never showed up. Not in Königstein, at any rate, leaving the undaunted locals to spend their days celebrating a Brazilian festival in their own company.
But their good-natured approach serves as an example of the way Germany is handling its role as the host of this World Cup, a role it sees as consummating its unity with the world.
What will the World Cup mean for German identity?
Andrei Markovits, a professor of political science from Michigan and currently a visiting professor of football studies at the University of Dortmund, tries to explain why the Germans find it so easy to identify with the Brazilians. "Brazil," he says, "is a 'default' team, a team the Germans can support when their own team loses." For Germans, Brazil is a benign country without an evil president. "The fan's emotional reserve defies logic," says Markovits. As long as the Brazilians play an excellent game, they're considered rivals.
It's shortly before 3 p.m. as the first fans arrive at Westfalen Stadium. A few kilometers away, in a lecture hall at the University of Dortmund's South Campus, Markovits is delivering a lecture on football in the age of globalization. Markovits is giving the lecture on the day of his appointment to the visiting professorship.
Markovits knows a great deal about football and its theories. He says that he has channeled his passion into an academic discipline. He stands at the podium wearing a dark blue suit and a light blue, striped shirt. His hair is gray and thinning and long in back. Markovits uses the podium for support, rocking gently back and forth, occasionally closing his eyes and describing what he sees. The boundaries between countries have faded away and modern man has big plans for the world. But now it's the World Cup, and everything is different. Man fades into the background, becoming a football fan.
Markovits is 58, a political scientist and sociologist, and he has a theory. He says: "Football is globalized, but the fan isn't." He explains his theory, loudly and full of passion. Enthusiasm is part of his nature.
Players move from club to club, crossing national boundaries. It's been that way for a long time, and football, he says, has long since become globalized. "But this evening," says Markovits, "everyone in this room will be rooting for Germany." They'll be singing hymns, hoisting flags and displaying their national icons. It's a way of expressing oneself and saying: I am a German. "The emotional reserve has been completely nationalized," he says.
The emotional reserve is the reason why the fan is so far away from being globalized. "But he can't help it," says Markovits, "he feels what he knows."
He knows his country, the food, his friends and the place where he fell in love for the first time.
Is this a new patriotism? Or just a touch of euphoria? Or perhaps not even that? After all, patriotism has been on the rise. Four years ago, hardly anyone would have been seen driving around with a German flag attached to his car. "Okay," says Markovits, who was born in Romania, grew up in Vienna, went to school in New York and is an American citizen, over a Coke following his lecture, "a World Cup in one's own country heightens the affect of nation even further. The nation, Germany, in other words, is especially acute during these weeks."
Markovits says he is afraid of any type of nationalism, that it's rarely produced anything positive. Cheering on the home team doesn't present a problem, says Markovits, because "it isn't so atavistic." But he doesn't expect a new, nationalistic Germany to emerge. The affect, he says, will disappear after July 9. "I don't believe it will be lasting."
But some believe that not much will change as a result of the World Cup because much has changed already, and that Germany's current celebratory mood is merely an expression of this transformation.
According to this view, there is a new emotional patriotism, a love of country that manifests itself in an abundance of flag-waving and cheering for "Deutschland, Deutschland." The theory holds that ordinary citizens, in particular, have sensed that globalization will bring them nothing but hardship, a feeling that has prompted them to turn their attention inward once again, toward their nation. Cheering for Germany's successes, therefore, is rooted in a deep sense of emotion.
This may be true in some cases. But if one travels through the country, visits the stadiums and observes the crowds gathered in front of the big screens, one has the impression that for most it's simply a celebration. The flag or the jersey is not as much an expression of patriotism as it is of a desire to have a good time, just as displaying Germany's colors is a ticket to entry.
Under this interpretation, the national colors may be a sign of belonging, but not as much to a nation as to an international partygoers' convention currently taking place in Germany. The good spirits certainly include a shot of patriotism, but of the kind that can only be conjured up for what many see as a party -- the German team's matches. When German troops depart for Congo in the near future, tens of thousands won't be waving the black, red and gold flag, a flag they've suddenly rediscovered to celebrate the World Cup.
But even this light-heartedness is only possible because something has indeed changed. This, at least, is what Edgar Wolfrum, a professor of history in Heidelberg, would say. At 46, Wolfrum is young for the job. He has long hair and wears a striped shirt. His book, "The Successful Democracy," a history of the Federal Republic of Germany, was published in March. The title alone shows that Wolfrum is willing to see this country in a positive light. But this doesn't make him a cheering patriot. "I hate flags of every ilk," says Wolfrum. And as far as Germany's national anthem is concerned, he says: "Actually, I like the stanza that we've kept, but would I sing it? I don't know."
But he has no qualms about uttering a word that is in fact frowned upon when used in connection with Germany. It's the word "proud." "We can be proud of our achievements," he says.
Wolfrum sees the change that's taking place in Germany as a jump from the Third Reich to a democracy, one with well-functioning institutions and one that strives for balance and accommodation in its foreign policy. "In 60 years Germany has changed more than any other country," says Wolfrum.
From that standpoint, it doesn't hurt to occasionally wave a little black, red and gold fan without having to feel guilty. But it also doesn't mean that the Third Reich will be forgotten, especially not by historian Wolfrum. Indeed, it's only natural that the German approach to life should become less ponderous as the country accumulates years of successful democracy under its belt. It doesn't mean that Germans will keep on celebrating, but their ability to feel good about themselves will remain.
Christoph Metzelder is a German player who likes to think about these issues. On a Friday, he's sitting in the ICC discussing his emotions shortly before kick-off. "For me the national anthem is the emotional high point of a match between national teams," he says, adding that those minutes these eleven players spend side by side "show that we truly stick together." He calls it "embarrassing" that the words of the anthem had to be displayed on screens in the past, and exciting to see an entire stadium singing its heart out, as loudly as it did in Dortmund. In fact, he says, the crowd was so loud that he couldn't even hear the band.
These days Metzelder is experiencing a different country and a different football World Cup. And it isn't what he had expected. Of course, he adds, "you just have to laugh sarcastically" over tabloids like Bild zealously promoting a new way of thinking that isn't so new after all, vilifying Ballack for his T-shirt.
He says: "People aren't thinking in categories like victory or defeat anymore. They're liberating themselves from this way of thinking and are simply enjoying the fact that we're here. The World Cup has detached itself from us somewhat. It's become a great festival of many cultures, a festival that's being celebrated very openly and with great enthusiasm."
What's happened? What's changed? Footballer Metzelder believes that it's a generational issue. "After all, my generation has grown up in one of the world's most stable democracies. We won't forget the lessons of that 12-year Nazi era. It's something we have etched in our brains. But we can live more uninhibited and carefree lives, and we can play football the same way."
DIRK KURBJUWEIT; KRISTINA ALLGÖWER, KLAUS BRINKBÄUMER, UWE BUSE, MARKUS FELDENKIRCHEN, JOCHEN-MARTIN GUTSCH, BARBARA HARDINGHAUS, RALF HOPPE, MARIO KAISER, ANSBERT KNEIP, JÖRG KRAMER, MATTHIAS MATUSSEK
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan