Dortmund, Germany | Supporters lent a raucous surrounding to today’s friendly between Germany and the United States. We did not see denizens of the Signal Iduna Park wearing any of the free 11,000 T-shirts reading “Ihr fí¼r uns und wir fí¼r euch” (“You’re for us and we’re for you”) meant to soften feared hostility toward Germany’s manager. At least the U.S. television commentators were not wearing them.
Glossy magazine Der Spiegel, in its international edition, communicates well the German Angst with the World Cup finals less than three months’ distant and the national side somewhat off-peak:
There used to be a time when you could rely on German football. When the sober strip of white shirt and black shorts discreetly emblazoned with the national eagle represented a brand of determination, danger and infuriating luck that struck fear into the hearts of even the most skilled opponents.
For four decades until the mid-1990s, in the matches that really counted, anyone facing German sides knew they were in for a gargantuan struggle that often culminated in penalty shootouts where ice-cold Teutonic resolve usually delivered the coup de grace.
Chancellor Angela Merkel recently stepped in to blunt the row between Jí¼rgen Klinsmann and the Deutscher Fussball-Bund, particularly the chief of the World Cup organizing committee, Franz Beckenbauer, who lambasted “Klinsi” following a 4–1 friendly loss to Italy in Florence. National and international media have taken turns mocking the three-time World Cup champions. “Their language, because of its scope for creating words, allows for particularly inventive criticism,” observes Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. He also gets in his shots at the Klinsi regime and predecessors. Commenting on reports that top players in Germany may have been involved in a new match-fixing scandal, Kuper says, “A German international throwing a match looks awfully like a German international playing his usual game.”
Naturally, these political and media struggles detract from the benefits accruing to Germany as the result of its hosting. Its musical, literary and artistic gifts have been on display through the World Cup’s cultural program. New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, in the current issue, writes in rapture for the already lauded Allianz Arena in Munich; the home ground of Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich hosts the opening game of the World Cup on Jun 9. Goldberger calls the stadium, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, a “quilted doughnut” when seen from afar. The skin changes color at night depending on the team hosting a game.
The shifting lighting schemes atop the Empire State Building seem timid compared with this chameleon.
The arena retains its allure during the day. The unusual material—ETFE, or ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene—gives the stadium a cushiony texture, as if it were an oversized, permanently moored blimp; you want to climb up and touch it. And its subtle white hue eerily duplicates the Munich sky on a cloudy winter afternoon—the stadium practically disappears.
Finally, the event allows focus to human-rights issues such as the trafficking in women from Eastern Europe and the relationship between soccer and justice. Kuno Hauck of the Nurnberger Menschenrechtszentrum, a human-rights center in Nuremberg, has raised questions about the latter as part of the Coalition against Impunity: Truth and Justice for the German Disappeared in Argentina. The group seeks information about German victims of the Argentine dictatorship and still questions whether Germany should have sent a national team to the 1978 World Cup finals when torture and murders were taking place.
They ask that the German football federation create a code of ethics and open a conversation about human rights in participating countries in this year’s World Cup, especially Iran. Says Hauck:
Back in 1978, there were some players who expressed criticism toward Argentina. There were others who just said: “What’s happening in Argentina doesn’t concern me. I just want to play soccer.” But we think that’s naive. You can’t just say: “Sports is sports, politics is politics.” It’s very unrealistic to believe that when a national team plays somewhere, spectators don’t connect the politics of their home country and everything else that happens there with the players.