Angela Merkel’s presence at Germany’s World Cup game against Portugal raised some questions. It has become tradition by the German chancellor to attend matches of Die Nationalmannschaft. Yet, Merkel’s omni-presence gives reason for concern over the link between football and politics.
The sight of Angela Merkel watching a match of Germany’s national team playing at a major tournament has become a very common one. One can rejoice in the fact that a female head of government – Germany’s first – is attending a match of this magnitude, engaging in and enjoying it. The same certainly cannot be said about Margaret Thatcher who considered football and football fans as second best.
The sight of Merkel watching a game of football at this stage is also a worrying one. Not just has she become the most powerful woman on the planet but she is also ubiquitous. It is also a disturbing sight: Next to her sat Sepp Blatter during the first half. This raises a moral question. As long as people with influence and power like Angela Merkel court people and organizations such as Sepp Blatter and fifa respectively, how should an organization like fifa, with a questionable reputation at best feel the need, feel the urge to change? As change is required wouldn’t it not a strong signal by the German chancellor if she made sure, she was not seen with Sepp Blatter and thus stopped courting him and his old men’s club? If sponsors as big as Sony and VISA voice their concern about certain practices within fifa, could not high politics also wield their influence and demand a clarification and more importantly, change and transparency within the governing body of the world’s most popular game? Ironically, or rather cynically, adidas also joined those 2 companies. Adidas, of all companies! The German brand with the 3 stripes is widely known as the inventor of modern sports corruption. The founder, Adi Dassler made sure that the DFB, wore his sports wear and shoes. His son, Horst was involved in the implementation of a system that many would describe as corrupt. Therefore, adidas’ call for a clean-up of fifa is questionable.
The second issue Merkel’s presence raised, is a specifically German one. She, like her predecessors in office, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder were also present at football games. So nothing new one could think. However, Merkel tends to pay a visit in the dressing room after the game, which Kohl and Schroeder did not. Whatever her incentive to do so continously, it seems odd.
Another point that comes to mind is the relation between Merkel and her electorate. Watching a game from the VIP area is nice and might gain her some popularity. As she is already enjoying great support from the population, wouldn’t a reality check provide more publicity and popularity? In watching a game maybe in the suburbian areas of Berlin, Merkel would come across a very different image of contemporary Germany.
The problem with government officials in Germany is that these people bask themselves in the popularity of the game and (mis-)use it for their own ends: increasing their popularity among their electorate. Would Merkel or any other high profile German politician or for that matter of any other country find a moment to pose for a photo in fan zone either in Berlin or Brazil? Possibly not. Although she would not have to fear any discontent – she is far too popular in Germany for some reasons – it’s just not her kind of public relations. The person dubbed as ‘Mutti’ in the Fatherland is detached from the ordinary man in the street. Since, there is no general election in 2014, Angela Merkel further has no urgent need to mingle with fans and take the time for a photo. The same is true for any other German government official.
Just as fifa are working for dubious goals rather than the good of the game, so does politics.