In a few days the world cup will begin in
On July 4, 1954, the West German team defeated
The “miracle of Bern” marked the first occasion after the war where it was possible for Germans to experience an unalloyed, unsullied moment of national pride and marks, in many ways the moment when West Germany started to finally put the trauma of the war behind it and get on with the “economic miracle”, that process of hard work and good organisation which would see the country into unprecedented prosperity in the following years. If you want to get a feeling of what Germany was like then and what that world cup victory meant to the country, then you could do a lot worse than watch Sönke Wortmann’s film Das Wunder von Bern [The Miracle of Bern] (2003).
Twenty years after Bern, a resurgent West Germany hosted the world cup and, having been defeated 1:0 by East Germany in the first round, went on to beat the Netherlands 2:1 on July 7 in the final in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. The team was captained by Franz Beckenbauer.
On first sight a confirmation of self-assured West German success, the victory in 1974 came at a complex time in German history. The charismatic chancellor, Willi Brandt, the first Social Democrat to rule in post-war Germany, the man who had pioneered a new strategy of rapprochement towards East Germany, the Nobel peace-prize winner who had knelt in humble shame at the Warsaw ghetto, had been forced to resign only weeks before as a result of the Guillaume espionage affair. The oil-crisis of the previous year had shaken confidence in the country’s economic primacy. The final was played in Munich, the scene of the Black September massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympics two years previously and the shock-waves of the sixties – the generational conflict between the young, born after the war, and their parents, who tried their best to forget and were thus silent about their part in the third Reich, growing criticism of the solid bourgeois attitudes which had driven the economic miracle – were still spreading. Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and other leaders of those radicalised young people who had turned to terrorism were already in jail but the orgy of politically-inspired violence would continue. Some of those on the fringe of the Red Army Faction, including Joshka Fischer, would subsequently reject the path of revolution and go on to found the Green Party.
In what some commentators have described as the worst world cup in recent times,
Not that anyone in
At least in football terms. In a stricter political sense, it was the GDR which disappeared, the territory of the
But on the evening of July 8 1990 no-one in
Before the world cup started, Germans went through a typical phase of national agonising. There was a dispute about the opening ceremony which led to it being axed completely and there were dire predictions about potential fan violence and racist-inspired attacks on foreign visitors. Worse still, the host team had been less than impressive in the months leading up to the tournament and there had been a lot of criticism concerning manager Jürgen Klinsmann’s insistence on continuing to live in the USA and flying back to Germany to carry out his job.
But then the competition began and all the doubters were silenced. The German team played attractive football and reached the semi-finals. More important, however, was the atmosphere which swept the country. Generations who had been born since the war, the youngest of which could not even remember the Berlin Wall, suddenly discovered that they could be unashamedly, innocently patriotic. The national flag became popular overnight, with people hanging it from their windows, or flying it from their cars. But it wasn’t just German flags; I remember seeing apartment blocks with German, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian flags, all hanging peacefully side by side from different balconies – a positive expression of an often difficult multi-cultural reality. In wonderful summer weather
And so, it begins again. For the first time, the world-cup is being hosted in Africa, in a (despite all its problems) post-apartheid, multi-racial, democratic
Who’s going to win? A majority of Germans asked believe that their national team can do it this time, but, while I hope they’ll go a long way, I don’t see it happening. Following their victory in the European championship two years ago
One thing I am sure of. As a patriotic Irishman I am looking forward to seeing the French being beaten, humiliated, destroyed … Only on the football field of course!
 My Irish patriotism proudly notes that the