Nationalistic, soccer-related Stimmung in Berlin is serious right now. The World Cup here 4 years ago was seen as the breaking of a certain flag-taboo: whereas before it was questionable and mildly-shocking to wave a German flag at any time, during the World Cup everyone and their mother gladly smeared the black-red-yellow on their cheeks and hung huge flags from their balconies. It was undoubtedly a case of athletic sublimation of nationalistic/militaristic sentiment. The German flag now symbolizes die Mannschaft more than it does the country.
In my neighborhood of Neukölln, a largely immigrant community, flags are a-flying more so than in most other areas. My friend told me that, when Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon are not taking part in a football competition, the Arabic immigrants support the German national team more than many Teutonic Germans.
My friend and I overheard a funny story last night while waiting for our halloumi sandwiches at a Lebanese sandwich shop. The Arabic proprietors of the building next door were lowering a gigantic German flag from the roof, which stretched 4 stories down to just above street level. The man who seemed to be the owner of the flag said that someone tore the flag down a few days ago. He didn’t know who or why. My friend assumed it was some anti-fascist, left-wing Germans (many of whom also live in Neukölln), to whom the sight of a monstrously large German flag would be poisonous. The man said that now he has arranged security, who would guard the flag throughout the night. Such patriotic sentiment would be rare to find in most citizens of German-descent.
There’s a great piece in the Guardian by David Hytner about the new, young, “multi-kulti” German football generation who have impressed the world in their drubbing of Australia last week:
“We are aware that it’s something new to have German national players with Turkish, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Tunisian roots but for our generation, it’s very normal,” said Khedira, who is the DFB’s poster boy for the liberation generation. “We have some players called Khedira and some called Müller. We don’t know any differently.”
There remains a section of Germany’s support that struggles to come to terms with the multiculturalism, traditionalists who complain about some of the players not singing the national anthem. Ozil murmurs verses from the Koran when it plays. But Aogo says “people shouldn’t attach too much importance” to this. “I don’t sing the national anthem and I am still proud to play for Germany.”
Over and above the socio-political benefits, there are also those of a footballing nature. “Up front, we exude a bit of Latin or southern ease but defensively, we are incredibly disciplined, very German,” said Khedira. Ozil noted that “my technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game and the always-give-your-all attitude is the German part” while Aogo said that “the mixture of African physical strength and European tactical awareness can be very good for the DFB”.
That last part is a bit funny. It seems that if nationalism, in a nu-politically-correct world, is given new life through football, then the same happens with cheap cultural stereotypes?