This world-cup was much more than football for Germany

Germany is out!

Originally uploaded by fugo.

Germany goes to bed very sad tonight. Today’s defeat in front of Italy put an end to the hopes that have been swelling up all over Germany for the past 3 weeks. But what many people may not understand is that this world-cup meant much more to Germany than winning in football.

As I write from Jordan, I know that most Arabs know Germany as the land of Mercedes and Siemens. In other words, as an industrial giant that exports excellent machines. That’s why the German football team is often called ‘Al Makinat’ (The Machinery). I thought this was just an Arab thing (also calling the Japanese team: ‘the computers’, etc) but I found out that this is used in other countries as well!

Talk about countries as brands!

What many Jordanians and Arabs don’t know is that Germany has been going through a prolonged depression phase over the past 10 years or so. Germany is an aging country that, like much of Europe, has not figured out yet how exactly to deal with multiculturalism and immigration issues. It is struggling to maintain/change/reform its famous social security system. It cannot seem to bring its unemployment under control. The reunification with East Germany has cost a lot of money but has not delivered the dreams of prosperity that were promised.

Of course, Germany is a rich country and an export super-star. But its problems have had a very negative on national self esteem and has made many Germans quite pessimistic. Even the last elections did not bring clarity and the country is now ruled by a national unity government of social democrats and christian democrats.

Another dimension of German life that many people in Arabia don’t understand is how Germany deals with the heavy burden of Naziism. This is a complex issue that cannot be covered in a simple blog post. Arabs, who are themselves dealing with some of the by-products of Naziism and its atrocities committed against the Jews, in the form of the creation (or the speeding up of the creation) of Israel. I’ve heard educated Jordanians speak in a dismissive way about Naziism (let alone the rather widespread opinions of Holocaust denial prevalent in this part of the world), which just shows how little many people know about global history in the 20th century (of which we are all a product).

The overwhelming majority of today’s Germans were born after the 2nd World War. How to deal with the legacy of 20th century is still a big question in Germany. So, while it is easy for Americans and Arabs, for example, to express national (or even nationalistic) pride, that’s not the case for Germans who know that their nationalistic tendencies led them into two destructive wars that ended up engulfing the whole world.

So, as you see it is not just the land of ‘Made in Germany”.

So now, in 2006, as Germany opened up its arms to the whole world as host of the world-cup, something amazing apparently happened. From press and TV reports, pictures and personal stories, it is clear that Germany has been transformed into a vibrant party mood. The consecutive successes of the German football team drove people, in their millions, to the streets to watch the games together on huge screens. There has been an amazing display of German flags al over the country, which I understand is happening without much nationalistic or xenophobic undertones.

For a few weeks, Germans have gotten rid of their pessimism, their over-discussion of local politics, their worries about pensions, their skepticism.

Maybe some intellectual out there will sternly tell us that it is irrational for a nation to change its attitude over a game involving 22 men running after a ball. But since when have nations behaved in a rational manner anyway??

The world-cup has succeeded at what numerous government funded national motivation advertising campaign have failed, Namely making Germans believe in themselves and their ability to achieve.

And now.. this defeat in front of Italy, in a German stadium.

Tonight, the depression sits deep. But it must be the hope of many Germans that the pride, hope and openness created by the world-cup party will stay alive, even after failing to reach the finals.

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24 Responses to “This world-cup was much more than football for Germany”

  1. natarsha_b Says:

    I really like this post – as much as it is a cliche to talk about how football is intertwined with politics and goes a long way toward promoting unity among nations etc., what you describe shows exactly how football can impact on a national consciousness and in a way also relations among countries.

    Here in Australia, having the national team make it to the world cup for the first time in 32 years, and then make it to the round of 16 meant a great deal to a country which is quite young especially in comparison to other participating countries. That the Australians were so underrated (and some feel unfairly pushed out of the world cup) did hurt a nation which is quite ambitious and eager for recognition. Many commented on how the team represented a multicultural cocktail, with most of the players having ‘foreign’ names, however this is precisely what Australia is like, which does not in any sense deny the existence of a true Australian identity.
    If Australia seriously continues to pursue football further, rather than concentrating on sports it’s traditionally good at, like cricket, but which only a small part of the world plays with interest, it will reflect the entry of this relatively young nation into the cultural community as a real player, or at least its will to do so.

    Sorry to ramble on, but I really identify with the ideas in your post, thanks for the insight :)

  2. Hussein Says:

    glory and pride will go with deutschland forever..

    4th of july was the worst day in my life.. for a few seconds indeed!! then i realize that i’m in love with an immortal country, immortal team, immortal history.

    hardluck for me and for all faithful people.


  3. Tololy Says:

    You lose some, you win some – they’ll get over it. This defeat being more than just a 0-2 score does not count for much in sports. Economy, society, politics aside; that’s what I say.

    Italy’s Serie A scandals back home involved 13 out of the 23 players featured in the national squad, that’s something to sympathize with if sports was about feelings. It’s not – it’s a game.

  4. Global Cairene Says:

    Very interesting post. I was amazed when I read that this is the first time the Germans raise their flags in such abundance without being ashamed. Apparently, during the 1974 World Cup, the German population was still feeling embarassed and ashamed of Germany’s role in WWII (30 years after the war ended!). It’s very true that people in the Middle East do not understand this angle of the German psyche.

  5. Samer Marzouq Says:

    Nice post, I believe that the Nazism and the extreme believe in the Aryan race brought many troubles on Germany, but to wisely believe in your self and your nation can create miracles, for me I respect Germans as they are a strong nation that introduced a lot to the world.

    But I was surprised of a statement by Franz Beckenbauer about how France won the world cup by non-French players and that Germany is doing the same, does this mean that German players are not good enough to win the cup?

  6. ohoud Says:

    Lovely article, summed up everything

    I wished for Germany to win, but deep inside I knew Italy was just better, their whole tactics and play performance was on a higher level.

    What buggs me is that at this stage Merkel is in charge, with her nuclear plans! I just hope she’ll stick to what she promised about the unemployment

  7. Khalidah Says:

    What an excellent analysis for the whole situation … I really like the logic behind everything you said here Ahmad and I agree that this was not just a game for the Germans … it was rather a last hope for them to gain their faith back in everything Germany stands for …

    I really feel bad for them but on the other hand I am really happy for both blue teams who showed unexpected performance in this round .. I hope France wins tonight and meets Italy for the Finals … these two teams really put so much effort till now and I think they deserve to be in the Final game …

    Great post again Ahmad … I never get tired reading your words!

  8. Harki Says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing your impressions from Germany – as to my own opinion, you put it by 100 % correct.

  9. Jürgen Siebert Says:

    Dear Ahmad. Thanks for your great background article. I put a reference on and you will have new friends (subscribers) soon.
    PS: The picture you’ve selected is very nice and affecting.

  10. Jürgen Siebert Says:

  11. The Observer Says:

    We can have another article in the same line of this with a title “This world-cup was much more than football for Jordanians”

    With the legay this current generation of Jordanian is currying from several defeats since the implants of the Israeli land and the division of the arab world we all learn at schools till the current global affair and the situation in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, in addition to the so presumed global war against Arabs and Islam..etc, Jordanians found themselves in search of a champ as opposed of their continous feeling of failure and opression.

    With the lack of a good Arabic team in the modial, Jordanians transferred their patriotic emotions to the different top teams. Most are Brazillians, because Brazil not only considered to be a 3rd world country like of the countries of the Arab world, but it has also succeeded in topping most of the first world countries in football.

    It became more than a football for us, otherwise you wouldnt feel like being in Sau Paulo when Brazil win while you are in Abdoun!

  12. Moey Says:

    dude, ur post is so touchy.. i’d cry if i was german.. i’m not kidding

  13. Sabine Says:

    No reason to cry, it’s just a game, a game to feel and fight with others, Germany found its black-red-golden ground! To win or not to win, it’s not longer the question!

  14. Jens!Picek :: News-Blog » Blog Archive » Die Sympathie-Fahne für Deutschland! Says:

    [...] ;r jede der 32 Nationen die mitgespielt haben. Es ist und war grossartig! Und hier gibt es noch einen Artikel der auf englisch geschrieben ist. Aber absolut lesenswert! Thema is [...]

  15. Zeid nasser Says:

    Actually, Ahmad, Germany is not out.

    They’re still in, playing for 3rd place :)

    From a pure footballing perspective, the Germans got much further than expected, so they should be pleased

    Before the tournament, not even the most optimistic German would have bet on a semi-final for the national side (there are surveys to prove that), and they’ve laid excellent groundwork for the footballing future.

    As for the cultural part…. well, Italy and France both have massive social problems, government corruption, riots ….. you name it and the progress of their teams puts a smile on their faces.

    “Mas’aeb Qawmin 3ind Qawmin Fawa’edo”

  16. Humeid Says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments. I am happy to report that 2 german blogs have linked to the past and said that it’s worth reading (thanks Jürgen and Jens).

    Most Jordanian were Italy fans that night (that’s the subject of another post in the future, I hope), but here and there we also had big Germany fans as well. I saw a car yesterday completely kitted out with German flags and symbols yesterday!

  17. Zeid Nasser Says:

    Speaking of which, I hear the government is ‘cracking down’ on such a practise.

    Why would Jordanians be brandishing another nation’s flag?

    Cars with flags of England, France, Brazil, Italy, Germany ….. do we really think that’s acceptable?

    Isn’t it anti-nationalistic? Or just some ‘innocent’ fun that comes once every 4 years?

  18. yasmin Says:

    What you said is true
    for the first time ever I saw german flags hanging EVERYWHERE, on the cars, from the windows and balkons, just everywhere. Thousands of them.

    In normal time, you rarely ever find one- not even in their national holidays (as the reunion e.g.)

    and you should have seen them every time they won a game!
    people would sing loudly in the streets, dance, and speak with strangers about football in busses and elevators, and in the supermarket (Germans don’t usually talk to people they don’t know)

    When they won over argentine and moved to the semi-final, they got simply CRAZY!
    everybody started honking their car horns, and didn’t stop until about 2 in the morning. It was like a GIANT wedding (though germans don’t honk, not even in weddings!)

    But they seem to get over the defeat.
    they have a new song now: 54-74-90-2010
    (for those who does not know: the Wourldcup-song was 54-74-90-2006)
    and: “Wir fahren nach Stuttgart” (we go to Stuttgart)
    instead of “Berlin, Berin, wir fahren nach Berlin”
    (Because the final is in Berlin, and the 3rd-place game is in Stuttgart)
    Though some of them are calling for a pizza boycott…

    When is your next podcast coming?

  19. Humeid Says:


    You are joking, right?

    A government crackdown on flag of displaying flags of other nations. That is really one of more rediculous things I’ve heared in a while.

    If this is true (I hope it isn’t) then this is the ultimate sign of lack of self confidence in Jordanian national identity by whoever came up with the ‘crackdown’ idea.

    Also.. the context of this flag display thing is clearly FOOTBALL. And even if it is not football, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business what kind of flags, logos, or other symbols people display.

    “isn’t it anti nationalistic”? huh? First of all, who said one has to be nationalistic. One can still love/like his country without being ‘nationalistic’.

    Also, is a guy showing the italian flag anti-Jordanian in any way. Probably not!

  20. WaMu3tasemah Says:

    Even though this is outside the topic, but why most of the so-called intellectuals have been silent on what’s going on to their neighboring people of the occupied lands? However, the same people, the so called intellectuals, all raced to condemn the actions of their own people just few weeks ago…

    Very sad & shameful …

  21. Yann Says:

    Great post!
    I think you bring it quite to the point. I was born in France and moved to Germany 18 years ago.
    You cannot imagine the changes in the general atmosphere in Germany. Before the beginning of the WC, I was not really interested into football. But the whole atmosphere was like a huge wave taking everyone, including myself. I think Germany needed this as it was sinking further and further into depression, as the economical and political situation is not appreciated by the majority here.
    Anyway, I am looking forward to coming back to Jordan in August! I love your country and your ppl!

  22. Henning Says:

    Really a great post. And you are so right!

    Perhaps this world cup will lead us Germans out of the depression. And it´s amazing, that football have done what the politicians tried to do for years: to wake Germany up from it´s lethargy!

    One time football has done something like this before, perhaps even more: When Germany won the World-Cup in 1954 in Switzerland, the “Wunder von Bern”

    This World Cup gave a bit of self-esteem back to the country after the defeat in WW II, perhaps 2006 has done the rest.

    But all these things wouldn´t have been possible without all our international guest who celebrated a party all over Germany with us and helped to made us proud again to be a German.

    If you were in Germany or if you watched the cup on TV in your country:


  23. Alex Says:

    It is a great pleasure for me to read your post. It was a pleasure for us to have the fans of the world as our guests. “A time to make friends” – I hope we did it. Thank you for beeing our guests and hope to see you soon!

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