do not mention the war

England’s new found love: Germany

In Anglo-German Relations on June 30, 2012 at 22:21

Something has happened to England during this recent Euro 2012 football tournament. It is visible in this article by Barney Ronay of the Guardian newspaper. He admitted that he began to like Germany, not just for their football of late but also because they lost. Which for him was an ancient Saxon trait that ultimately still connected both nations, even after centuries.

Likeable Losers

The defeat against Italy in another semi-final was another in a long row of failures of the German national team at major tournaments and German club teams, most notably the 5-1 against England in Munich in 2001 and recently Bayern Munich‘s Champions League defeat against Chelsea after penalties. The semi-final defeat against Italy was another addition to that tally of failure in the last ten years.

Ronay notes that this ‘love affair’ with the Nationalmannschaft is

one of the more notable English side-effects of Euro 2012. The fact is a love of German football has for the first time entered the mainstream. The English now like the Nationalmannschaft with almost the same degree of reflexive certainty they once hated them. And while this German team may not be kings of Europe, they have still emerged as kings of our furred and hardened English hearts. It is, naturally, all very disturbing.

He continues to ask:

Where did the evil go? Did we imagine that air of ringlet-tossing Euro-naff, the sense of maddeningly engineered athletic certainty, the butt-slapping disco-victory poses of Andreas Möller?

Barney Ronay compared England 2012 with the reaction to Yordan Letchkov‘s header at the 1994 World Cup when Bulgaria eliminated Germany from the competition and concluded that the evil has given way to a silent admiration. Their strongest point to be liked is, of course, because they have lost. Compared with the common ‘straw man’ Spain, who are described as indulging in their ‘mañana’ culture, which he describes as a symptom of laziness and sloth and ‘possibly even recreational drug use.’

What further made Germany likeable losers was the fact that they had to chase the game very early on in which Ronay detected how the technical skills dissolved ‘in a tearful haze of Rooney-panic.’ Ronay sees this love for German football as part of English soul-searching and admits that

here is something in that athletic, hard-running style that makes the needle twitch, and which, despite the technical and tactical refinements, speaks distantly to a shared Saxon folk-memory of bladder-smuggling shout-ball, the siege-tower aerial assault, the midfield fireplace-wrestle.

In short, England will never create footballers like Spain or Italy, rather the old bonds of the Saxon ancestors let English hearts warm for the German football national team. England, in his opinion, see in Germany the team England should have been and possibly still could be, provided the system would be producing technically skilled players like happening across Europe.

Old Love Never Dies

There is some history to that new-found love the English experience with Germany. Of course this goes back to 1966 but in this case is simply not avoidable as no one less than The Times football writer Geoffrey Green who described the German team as ‘gallant losers.’ However, things changed a in 1972 when the Daily Mirror introduced some players ahead of the quarterfinal game between the two teams under the headline ‘The Old Enemy.’ Worse was to come. During the 1982 World Cup in Spain the German team was described as a human ‘Panzer Division’, possibly no better displayed than by Schumacher’s foul, or rather vicious attack, on France’s Patrick Battiston. This outpour of dislike and malevolence was certainly caused by England’s failure to beat Germany in a competitive match from 1972 until 2000, almost 30 years.

Nevertheless, old love never dies goes an English proverb to which the German delivered a perfect translation: Alte Liebe rostet nicht. Maybe the English have rediscovered their love for the German national team now that the latter appear to become increasingly like England: bottling it when the going gets tough.

  1. […] England’s new found love: Germany ( […]


  2. Thank you for the insight in the beginning of english military metaphorics against the Nationalmannschaft. I, from Germany, always thought, that German football had always been “The Old Enemy” (with Pickelhaube, Stahlhelm and Haubitze) in the eyes of the English yellow press.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This trend began in the early 1970s and certainly climaxed in 1996 when the Daily Mirror put Gascoigne and Pearce wearing tin helmets on the front page with the head line: Achtung! Surrender! I’m sure you know this one. Additions to this with Pickelhaube, Stahlhelm and Panzer were added later.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember such headlines, but don’t have in mind this special picture. But it must have been 1996 or 1990, not 1966.
    Maybe it’s a shared anglo-german feeling to hate the champions and love the losers. That may be connected to the bourgeois norm of modesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] The current popularity of German football reached its peak in 2012 during the EURO in Poland and the Ukraine, which was preceded by Bayern’s unfortunate defeat against Chelsea in the Champions League Final in Munich’s very own Allianz Arena in May 2012. All of a sudden, the Germans have become ‘likeable losers.’ […]


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