England will play Germany at Wembley this afternoon. And no one has mentioned the war.
Surprisingly, or rather refreshingly, none of the common war talk is to be found in the papers. The reason? It’s a game between the women’s teams of both countries. Where normally there would be a week’s load of coverage found in the papers, there is next to nothing to be found for this match at Wembley. The German sports magazine Kicker has nothing at all about the match. Rather, it is focussed on the Champions League where the German teams could repeat the success of their male counterparts: an all-German final, though not at Wembley but in Berlin.
The game, a friendly, at Wembley on Sunday has so far seen more than 50000 tickets sold, which further underlines the interest the game has gathered over the last years in England.
Interestingly, even the DFB’s website only shows information about the game on their English site. The same at the FA. However, the coach, Mark Sampson states, surely with some thoughts about the men’s recent results:
‘It’s the arch enemy, the rivals.’
Is it surprising that a man mentions the Anglo-German rivalry? Is this only man’s thing?
Hardly: Anna Kessel in her pre-match report finishes along the same note:
At Wembley on Sunday, spectators will be hoping to see that gap close just a little, as England attempt to play catch up with their biggest footballing rival.
The coach adds that the Germans have won 8 European Championships and the World Cup twice, which makes them one of the best teams to play against. That this will happen at Wembley, adds to the special event this game will be for either team. The assistant coach Marieanne Spacey, once herself a player adds
“Germany are a fantastic football nation – they seem to get it right all the time. They play to win, they don’t see anything other than winning. They’ve moved with the times, they’ve always been the team to beat.”
However, it is telling that no major German newspaper has had a story on the match. Besides the guardian’s story there was one report in the Independent which asked where 55000 people are coming from. A disbelieving Glenn Moore wonders whether most people are only curious or tempted because of the reasonable tickets and people are only interested in the Wembley atmosphere. He concluded that 55000 is a bench mark that puts some pressure on England to convince people to come back and, perhaps more importantly, the FA, to have more of the women’s matches at the so-called home of football. The absence of any large reports in the major newspapers is telling of the sports press in Germany.
This somewhat different coverage in England also speaks volumes. It is free of any bellicose metaphors or any ‘nick names’ for the Germans; no Krauts nor Three Lions. Respect is the order of the day. Having researched the Anglo-German football rivalry over a 40 year period (1954-1996) i find this approach to the game refreshing as it reminds me of a similar state of affairs between the men’s equivalent from the mid-1950s until June 1966; before the World Cup kicked off in England. The coaches of that era, Walter Winterbottom and Sir Alf Ramsey for England, Sepp Herberger and Helmut Schön for Germany respected their opponent and demanded the same from their players. The war, though being a very recent experience on both sides, was hardly or never mentioned.
This is not a post that longs back to the good old days. It is doubtful if things really were that much better then. It serves as a reminder that things were different then, that a match of football can be written about without mentioning the war or writing about stereotypes in a sensationalist manner. No Piers Morgan who will sanction brainless front pages.
Let’s hope it remains that way.