The Passion of the World Cup (Americans, don’t stop reading yet!)

OK, now, this is when Germany gets really fun. Starting on June 11 and lasting until July 11, the world revolved around the World Cup Soccer (Football) Championship held in South Africa.  Every day, every cafe had extra tables and televisions parked outside for every match.  All eyes were glued to the matches and at the same time enjoying drinks and a meal with friends. It was an obsession.  Even cars driving by would slow down to catch a look at a match and see the score. In the beginning there were 3 matches a day so the festivities seem to continue non-stop.  I’m happy to say I got out as much as possible for this.  Of course one can watch at home, but there is nothing like enjoying beautiful German summer days among good friends, food, drinks, and enthusiastic fans.  When Germany won their quarterfinal match against Argentina, we were in Frankfurt and watched fans flood the streets in unprecedented abandon.  You see, the last few generations of Germans have been quite reluctant to wave the flag or appear, in any way, blindly loyal to nationalism.  During the last World Cup, four years ago, flag-waving resurfaced among the masses which concerned many.  Is it just proud patriotism or the first phase toward goose-stepping nationalism?  Whatever the debate, Germans in general seem even more comfortable displaying their colors this World Cup and I think it’s long overdue.  They have paid for their sins and rebuilt themselves into a prosperous, fully engaged democracy. There are still some uncomfortable Germanic traits in my opinion–and they deserve a little humility for that– but the devils are long gone.

So, the days and weeks go by and I grow accustomed to flags posted on cars, painted on faces, and displayed everywhere else you can imagine. Fireworks crackled,  Vuvuzuelas (those annoying horns) honked regularly and, in some moment of magnanimous stupidity, I bought one horn each for Nora and Jack. The enthusiasm was everywhere and even Jack came home from German Kindergarten twice with German flags painted on his cheeks. We only got alarmed though when he came home one day and started singing Deutschland Über Alles, or Germany Overall, which is their national anthem. Fortunately, July 4, Independence Day arrived shortly after that.  I put out our Stars and Stripes early in the morning. It was then I confirmed a suspicion.  German homes do not have flag posts–something every American home has.  I had to rig the flag with some layers of masking tape so it could hang over our garage.

By the way, World Cup is such as huge industry besides the overpriced fan jerseys.  There are quite a few official songs that were recorded for this championship. I only know two of those songs and one is by Shakira and, unfortunately, it sounds like she just phoned it in.  The better one, by far, is called “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan.

One last thing for those of you who weren’t paying attention/didn’t care (I used to be one of those), America made it to the round of 16 and was defeated by Ghana 1:2. Germany made it to the semifinals and was defeated by Spain 0:1.  Spain won the World Cup in overtime against the Netherlands 1:0.


2 responses to “The Passion of the World Cup (Americans, don’t stop reading yet!)

  1. I’m German and just stumbled on your blog – it’s really fascinating to read about everyday events in Germany from a different perspective! 🙂 Anyway, I just wanted to ask you if you’re sure that your son learnt how to sing “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” in kindergarten.

    The “Deutschlandlied” has three stanzas – “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” is the first stanza and it is NEVER sung today except by Neo-Nazis. When the song was written in the 19th century, this stanza was not as politically incorrect as it is today – it merely expressed the wish for a united Germany (there was none) and mentioned the vast territories were German was spoken as future parts of this united country. However, as many of these territories are today countries of their own, e.g. Austria, and the first stanza was much misused under Nazi reign, the first stanza is not sung anymore by anybody except Neo-Nazis. Singing it today implies promoting military expansionism, i.e. conquering all those territories mentioned in the stanza and making them part of Germany.

    The second stanza is also not used anymore – strictly speaking, it’s not politically incorrect but just sounds a bit ridiculous (waxing lyrical about German women, German songs and German wine). Today, the German national anthem consists ONLY of the third stanza of the “Deutschlandlied”, which praises unity, justice and freedom.

    • Ellen Willson Hoover

      Hi Katja,

      Thanks for visiting the blog. And thank you for the information about the older and newer national anthems. I guess there is a small chance I misunderstood him but I dont think so. At the time he sang that, I wasn’t even fully aware of the link between that song and the nazis of the past and neo-nazis of today. Fortunately, he only sang it that one time. I do wonder how he learned that at the kindergarten but it seems like an aberration, not part of the culture or teaching there. Perhaps another child taught him? Who knows! Nevertheless, I do not intend to portray the whole of Germany longing for that past. I hope it didn’t appear that way! Best, Ellem

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