Another chapter in the Anglo-German football rivalry will be written later this month when Schalke and ManU meet in the semi-final of the European Cup, otherwise known as UEFA Champions League. Last year ManU were beaten over the two legs by Bayern München who went al the way to the Final, only to lose it against a defensive minded Inter. The encounter in the quarter-final became more famous for Alex Ferguson’s rant against Ribery to fall to the ground in “typical German” manner, which led to the sending off of Rafael. The record of Man United against German opposition is not the best. They lost the semi-finals in 1997 and 2002 to Dortmund and Leverkusen respectively, as well as two quarter-finals against Bayern München in 2001 and 2010. Against this stands solely the triumph in the Nou Camp in 1999 against Bayern. However, overall the English clubs have had the better of the European Cup competitions, having won a total of 25 European Cups across all competitions, German teams have won 17 in all tournaments so far. This includes the triumph of 1. FC Magdeburg in the Cup Winners Cup in 1974. That tally is quite obviously in England’s favour.
Football matches between England and Germany or between club teams are more than just football matches. This might sound somewhat plain and stereotypical, yet there is some truth in these words. Christopher Young titled an essay focussing on the asymmetrical Anglo-German football relationships “Two World Wars and one World Cup” which clearly makes the connection between football and war between England and Germany. He examines the relationship and concludes that humour is an important part that is often undervalued and underestimated in dealing with each other. As an example surely every one remembers this video by The Lightning Seeds for Euro ’96. No one clearly was surprised to realize that all German players were called Kuntz, which in the English pronounciation does not make pleasant reading. However, John Motson had a go. The exception is Klinsmann. When playing for Tottenham he has won over the supporters by diving after scoring his first goal for the club, thus taking the English humour back to the English public and proved that Germans do have a sense of humour after the English media and fans claimed him to be a diver. Before the game he turned up at the press conference carrying diving equipment with him. If the press thought they’d have a field day when Klinsmann arrived he responded stylish and issued a two finger salute to the press hacks.
However, there are boundaries and once they’re reached or crossed the mood turns sour very quickly. Young’s argument that a lot of the press coverage before and after England Germany have to be taken humourously could be countered when considering the Daily Mirror’s front page ‘Achtung! Surrender’ two days before the semi-final at EURO ’96 and the amount of complaints were logged with the Press Complaints Comission. In its report for 1996 the pcc stated that there were 306 complaints with regards to the coverage of the tournament yet none of them presented a breach of the industry’s code. The Commission nonetheless condemned the coverage and stated that it did not represent the public mood. A classic case of overstepping the mark.
The 1965 Cup Winners Cup Final was held at Wembley and was played out between West Ham and TSV 1860 München and it enabled Bobby Moore, then captain of West Ham and England, to win three successive finals at Wembley in as many years. The triumph in 1965 was the result of the FA Cup Final win the year before and in 1966 we all know what has happened at Wembley. A year later once more the Cup Winners Cup provided another Anglo-German final, this time between Liverpool and Dortmund, the latter winning in extra time a Hampden Park, Glasgow. Reinhard Libuda, later nick-named Stan after Stanley Matthews scoring the winner from roughly 25 yards out from the right in extra time to give Germany its first European club title.
Schalke vs ManU will be an interesting encounter in many ways. Many English ‘pundits’ see Ferguson’s team as favourites which is certainly correct as they have been at this stage previously and even went further. Therefore Wayne Rooney and Co. are boasting useful experience for the upcoming tie. Yet Schalke are not to be underestimated. Their performance against Inter was nothing short but outstanding; scoring five away goals is almost grotesque. Raphael Honigstein in The Guardian stated that the recent buzz about Schalke even puts a shade on Dortmund’s (their fiercest rival) almost secure championship. It is a sign that Ralf Rangnick’s appointment was the right thing at the right time and the team seemed revitalized. Something which cannot be said of ManU, particularly their defence which is described shaky at best. Yet performances of Ryan Giggs prove that age is no burden at this stage. The same goes for Raul, who has the ability to almost blindly spot any weakness in the opposition’s defence and use it to his advantage.
Whatever the outcome, at the end of the day it is a match football that is going to played despite the fact that it once more fields England and Germany against each other on the football pitch. The pressure is almost naturally on ManU as they are the favourites which leaves Schalke to play freely just as they did against Inter. And we know the outcome of that match.