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.
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.
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- Revealed: What England can learn from the Germans (thesun.co.uk)
- Euro 2012: Schadenfreude – or how we learned to love Germany’s losers | Barney Ronay (guardian.co.uk)
- Italy: Germany’s Bête Noire (anoldinternational.co.uk)
- How Balotelli and Pirlo humbled Germany (bbc.co.uk)
- 29 April 1972: England – Germany 1-3: 40 Years After (donotmentionthewar.wordpress.com)
- Euro 2012: Will Germany’s game of sprints take them all the way? | Barney Ronay (guardian.co.uk)