It's a game of football not an international conflict.
It’s not often I stick my oar into football related matters. But today I’m going to ponder on the upcoming England verses Germany match this coming Sunday.
Now the England V Germany rivalry is something written into national football folklore in this country, and it’s a subject many English fans love to bathe in nostalgia about. Like there was the time we beat West Germany and won the world cup in 1966, and of course when we beat the Germans 5 -1 in 2001, and err… that’s about it – although we still try to brag for some reason, despite nearly always losing to Germany. Sadly the rest of the dewey-eyed nostalgia is made up of xenophobia, which tends to link into to old World War Two jingoism such as: the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ and ‘the Blitz,’ like everyone has suddenly forgotten 1945 was sixty-five years ago and not last week. Well, that is when we aren’t resorting to sillier stereotypes like referring to the Germans in terms of sausages, lederhosen, and sauerkraut; something I can actually appreciate the humour of (It's more like harmless fun as every nation has it's quirks. I’d be interested to hear what they call us).
What makes our attitude sadder is that the Germans seem to be unaware that such a rivalry exists. I spoke to many Germans during my travels and occasionally made reference to the rivalry; nearly all of them were surprised by this revelation. To be fair the Germans are more concerned with their rivalry with the Dutch than with little England (renamed ‘Ingerland’ for the duration of any international football tournament) up there in the corner of Europe, shaking it’s isolated fist at its oblivious neighbours and being glared at by its fellow island inhabitants (yes I mean you Wales and Scotland!). What does faze the Germans are allusion to the Second World War and Nazism in general (I once absent mindedly referred to Deutschlandleid – the German national anthem - as “Deutschland uber alles” which led to a German friend declaring “We don’t sing that bit any more” with some alarm), as for football they tend to be a bit more down to earth than us. Well, unless they’re playing the Dutch (who do act a lot like us when they play Germany, it has to be said).
Still, despite the futility of our one-sided rivalry, it’s certainly something that has got the country talking. Listening to Radio 5live recently, I was quite pleased to hear that so many people phoned in and were as equally bemused by the WWII comparisons that are made, and that we are normally whipped up into a patriotic fervour by the media when we play Germany. Unfortunately there was still one moron who phoned defending the schtick with the phrase “never forget”. Whilst he is right that we shouldn’t forget the atrocities of World War Two – committed on both sides I might add – we shouldn’t condemn a country that did something bad over half a century ago and that hasn’t been able to live it down since. Also I’d imagine the man who had phoned in was more interested in perpetuating petty xenophobia rather than a true anti war message.
The ‘we’ll fight them on the beaches’ side of the rivalry still really irritates me however. Not many people, least of all those watching the match in South Africa or at home, were born with any living memory of the Second World War. Sure, my grandmother remembers it well, but it’s not like I personally had to put up with constant bombing or rationing. I do live with the legacy of the allies winning the war – for which I am rather grateful – but that doesn’t mean I feel the need to pour salt on the wounds of something that happened decades before my birth.
Ultimately I do hope England win and I will be supporting them one hundred per cent on Sunday. However, being realistic, I don’t think we are going to win; the Germans seem a much more solid unit, rather than our efforts which have been as disappointing as a BBC Three comedy sketch series (aside from the Slovenia match last Wednesday. But that was still no world beating performance). Sadly for us English, the world cup is probably going to end at the hands of one of our historical rivals as if we do beat the Germans we then play the Argentines, who almost certainly will knock us out if the Germans don’t.