Germany is happy today!
I don't follow sports. I don't care about sports. My husband and I like to go to the occasional live baseball game (especially with my family) but other than that, sports have absolutely no hold on our interest or care.
But when you live in Europe you kind of have to be at least aware of football (and by football, I mean soccer for all you Yankees). My husband and I have noticed that although many many sports are enjoyed on this continent only one is taken seriously. Very, very seriously.
Coming from America as I do I have of course seen sports taken very seriously and enthusiastically. I was in Houston when the Rockets won their basketball championship years ago and watched that city go Rocket-crazy. And this soccer tournament reminds me of that...expect it's not just a city, but the entire nation. No, actually, it's the entire continent. And I really don't think Americans understand the passion that Europeans have for soccer.
So, for those of you not currently living in Europe, the Euro 2008 Football Championship is going on right now. And it's a very big deal.
I had no idea this tournament was coming up...until I started seeing German flags everywhere: hanging off balconies, in shops and restaurants, and every second car on the road has flags waving from it. And not just German flags, but flags for every competing nation.
And I realized the games had started to be played when I noticed big flat-screen TVs hanging in department stores and restaurants showing the games and also when the train conductor got onto the loudspeaker during a trip I made to Karlsruhe telling travelers the current score of some game going on.
And then my husband started watching the tail end of the games so he wouldn't be clueless going into work the next day where everyone was talking about the tournament.
On Sunday we were traveling up to Karlsruhe on an early train which is usually pretty empty but this early Sunday it was packed with exhausted, dejected Hollanders on their way home from begin defeated by Russia at the previous night's game in Basel, Switzerland. As we got off the train, a group of Hollanders in their orange football jerseys and scarfs and hats wondered through the train station and got pity comments from most of the Germans they passed.
But Germany isn't so sad...not yet. Last night they won their place in the final match!
Now, a lot of Germans will stay home and watch these matches on TV, but many will go out to watch the match together. Towns and cities will set up public viewing areas...in fact, last night in Berlin half a million Berliners watched the semi-final game against Turkey in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
And I rode my bike down empty streets out to Bühl's Johannesplatz to catch a bit of the game and act the part of an interested anthropologist to study this cultural aspect of being a European.
Johannesplatz is a central square in the town's old city center surrounded by Italian ice cream cafes, bistros, and restaurants. Every business in the square had a big TV or two or three hanging outside and there were hundreds and hundreds of people there to watching the game.
Some of the hundreds at Johannesplatz last night...
Tooooor!! (Germany scores!)...
Now, the thing about this game is that Germany was playing against Turkey and there is a big Turk population in Germany. After arriving to the square I noticed that most of the Turkey fans were crowded in one third of the square while most of the Germany fans took up the rest. It was interesting to watch the two sides of the square react as first Turkey scored a goal and then Germany scored a goal. And then I went home to Karl to watch Germany win the game with a literal last minute goal.
So today Germany is a happy place and I'm curious how crazy things are going to get this Sunday with the finals!
Turkey is sad...
Germany is happy...
Even Angie is happy! (Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, at last night's game)...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Germany is happy today!