Wednesday, July 09, 2014

For The Love Of Germany!

During the 2002 Korea / Japan World Cup, I had been spending a lot of time in Cologne in Germany working on an assignment at the German subsidiary of an American client. Most of the matches were during working hours, the senior managers of the company gathered in their large conference facility to watch the German games. Turkish workers caught wind of this and so the Turkish games too were awarded the same treatment, the atmosphere was always fun and cordial. Flags of different nations playing in the World Cup were all over the factory and the offices, including those playing against Germany naturally, I don't recall seeing many or actually any German flags back then.

In 2006, the World Cup was held in Germany and this was really the first time the Germans started to appear comfortable in their own skin, lots of houses had flags, cars had German flags too. In fund raising mode, I had been traveling at the time between different German cities, hotels were expensive and trains were crowded but the World Cup in Germany was truly one big amazing celebration, I hardly watched any games but I watched the German people. Italy beat Germany and I recall seeing cars with Italian flags honking their horns parading the streets of Munich, yes Munich. I can't think of any other country I have been to, where this could happen. The development of the German national feeling into something that had shared pride and love for their country without exhibiting hate towards others captivated me, impressed me, made me genuinely develop true love and respect for Germany as culture and people. 

The years went by and I found myself again in Germany, at a large outdoor beer garden at the Englisch Garten with a friend in the center of Munich to watch the 2008 European Championship semifinal between Germany and Turkey. Unlucky for me, I had worn a burgundy color polo shirt which was almost identical to the colors of the Turkish flag. Siting amidst few hundred Germans to watch the game, Turkey scored first, a handful of Turks jumped up and down celebrating and actually taunting their German friends around them, nothing happened; Germany went on to win, people shook my hand, as a sort of "hard luck buddy" gesture. The atmosphere was always ultra friendly as the streets were full of Germans dancing and singing, I walked back to my hotel in my Turkish colors to pleasent gestures and smiles; I was actually rooting for Germany though, but with my looks and colors, I was assigned a Turk status for the night.

In 2010, during the South Africa World Cup, at the offices of my former company in Munich, we had people from different nations, but the local managers were shy to display the German flag at the entrance, I donated the German flag I had bought in 2006.

Now in 2014, I find my self sickened by the anti German racist jokes during the Brazil World Cup, I assume living in England where the gutter press and commentators know that stereotyping Germans and cracking the odd Nazi joke are often met with laughter that washes away the English national soccer shame, I know it's often done in a good hearted way, but I still find it upsetting. It was interesting though that many Brits were actually rooting for Germany. 

Also continuing to be keenly interested in my native Egypt social media scene, I was equally amazed at the amount of stereotyping comments made towards Germany mostly around the Algeria match. Brazil, the third world and the brown peoples representative to the football elites, is often the preferred nation to root for by most Egyptians. The 7-1 humiliations of Brazil by Germany unleashed lots of ugly comments, both sexist and racist, not to mention Holocaust comparisons. This was even more ugly than the English annoying humor. 

I wanted to write this short personal experience, because I believe in many ways, Germany and the Germans are ahead of much of humanity, going beyond the traditional national identification. Deutschland über Alles, or Germany above all, is an internal message to the Germans to put their pity differences aside and come together for the sake of Germany; it was not intended to mean Germany above other nations, as some have suggested, but right now, the Germans as people are truly ahead in building an affirmative identity for themselves indifferent to, and not hateful of others. Let's learn from the Germans to overcome stereotyping and racism.

July 9, 2014

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