27 June ~ The annoying thing about World Cups is that everyone has their opinion, even those who haven’t watched a single football match in the previous four years. I watched the 2006 final in a crowded pub, stuck next to a student type who was severely judgmental about everything that happened on the screen while admitting that he had no clue what the offside rule was all about. Unfortunately, these people have dominated the public debate in Germany before the match with England.
Radio DJs, message board users and colleagues at work who otherwise love gymnastics and figure skating are sure: England cannot beat Germany in a World Cup, because their goalies are bad and English players cannot take penalties. They couldn’t name an English player (or a German either), but that doesn’t stop them.
The media have directed their coverage at this group of people, which is logical since they represent the overall majority. Usually, between eight and ten million sit watch on TV when Germany play or when a Champions League match is on. Germany’s game against Ghana was followed by 29 million, according to the official figures. So, 20 million passers-by are at the centre of attention. And most of them love their cliches.
The German equivalent to the war rhetoric in the British tabloids (which is routinely echoed with outrage and disgust) is mockery. Robert Green “revived an ancient English tradition”, according to Günter Netzer, and his fumble againist the US was repeated ad nauseam in super slow motion, underlined with music from black-and-white slapstick movies. When it turned out that Germany were to play England, Green was finally released and replaced by Chris Waddle, whose penalty miss from 1990 makes him the most prominent Englishman on German TV these days.
The representative of the ignorant student types on the screen is former Bayern midfielder Mehmet Scholl who works as an expert for public channel ARD. When asked for a comment on England’s game against Algeria, he admitted that he didn’t bother to watch because he “knew it was going to be crap”. Scholl prefers attractive football, and he was full of praise for Italy’s attacking style and their tactical finesse in their match against New Zealand. No, he really was.
So today I’m going to ignore Scholl and Netzer and I will avoid crowded pubs. I will watch the match in the company of someone who knows his football: my five-year-old son. Very often, he has been irritatingly accurate with his predictions. “Don’t worry, dad,” he told me yesterday, “Germany will win. Nine goals to three.” Karsten Blaas