N.B.: It is always possible that links below will have expired, or that the link will take you to an archive, where you must part with $3.00 or so for a 750-word article. Another possibility is that a subscription or registration of some sort will be required. We apologize for any inconvenience, noting only that there frankly are too many links on the site to keep up with them all.

If, however, you would like us to find a now-expired article in our archives, we'd be happy to send it to you, if available. Please use the contacts link.

The season for atonement

Link to Bundesdance 2005
Chancellor-in-waiting Angela Merkel heads the field in Bundesdance 2005, presented by Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Note a tiny Jens Lehmann in blue, in front of the Allianz Arena.
Berlin, 15 October 2005 | Angela Merkel will lead a "grand coalition" of Christian and Social Democrats as chancellor. She will become the first woman and the first from the former East Germany to head the government. Analysts read the hardly overwhelming result as a triumph over the backward-looking achtundsechziger ("68ers"), those of ex-chancellor's Gerhard Schröder's ilk who began a slow rise in the late 1960s and started on a cultural course of engagement with the Nazi past (see Frederick Studemann, "Germany Swings to a Pragmatic Generation," Financial Times). As always, these political changes can be read against the developments in football, in which the angst of a referee match-fixing scandal moving to trial and dubious international results less than eight months before the World Cup form the backdrop to publication last month of Fußball unterm Hakenkreuz (Football under the swastika). Commissioned in 2001 by the German football federation (DFB), the book brings to completion the three-year study by University of Mainz lecturer Nils Havemann, the first to gain full access to DFB archives. Havemann describes the football association as having played "a contributing role to the stability of the Nazi rulers." Thus, DFB members "deserve a share of the guilt for the suppression, persecution, war and annihilation" of Jews and other "undesirables" (Erik Kirschbaum, "Book Probes Nazi Past of German Federation," Reuters, 14 September).

On the cover of Havemann's book, German players give the stiff-armed salute before a 1941 match against Sweden in Stockholm.

Andrei Markovits, professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan and co-author of Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism, goes further. By dint of a prevailing conservatism that had banned English terms such as "corner kick" and "touchline," German football authorities, according to Markovits, integrated seamlessly with the Nazi program. "[I]n Nazism, the DFB found a good ally, a soulful affinity" (Jack Bell, "German Federation Admits to Nazi Past," New York Times, 20 September). Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, in his 2002 book, Tor! The Story of German Football, already had found evidence supporting such conclusions. In the chapter titled "Angst and Anschluss: Football under the Nazis," Hesse-Lichtenberger writes that as early as April 1933 football authorities pronounced in kicker that "members of the Jewish race, and persons who have turned out to be followers of the Marxist movement, are deemed unacceptable" (80). The Nazification of German football clubs thus preceded by several weeks the official government order to expel Jews from welfare organizations, youth groups and sporting clubs. German international Julius Hirsch, a longtime member of FV Karlsruhe, and thousands of other Jews were forced to leave their clubs. Hirsch ultimately was murdered at Auschwitz. Sepp Herberger, manager of the side that defeated Hungary in the 1954 World Cup final—what Markovits calls "the most important event in Germany becoming the Federal Republic" and depicted in Das Wunder von Bern—also had ties to the Nazi past, but his ultimate allegiance seems unclear in Hesse-Lichtenberger's account.

In an incredible happenstance before the G-8 summit last year in Sea Island, Georgia, Schröder stumbles upon a group of kids with some footballs on an airport tarmac. A perfect opportunity to juggle. (Haraz Ghanbari | AP)

Moving forward rapidly to the present angst-ridden period—"Everyone is afraid" is how one Munich resident described the pre-election feeling (James Meek, "Berlin Blues," The Guardian, 15 September)—political realities suggest a period of Margaret Thatcher–style benefit-cutting. Unemployment in the unified republic stands at 11.5 percent (20 percent in eastern Germany). Population growth is 0 percent. Economic growth, similarly, is stagnant. In football, one team from the former East Germany, Hansa Rostock, remains in the Bundesliga's top flight. "Football has thus become a metaphor for the failure of the united Germany," writes the Times of London's Owen Slot ("East Germans Try to Arrest Decline by Bringing Back Player Production Line," 16 September). "[E]ast cannot match west economically and its football clubs cannot match up either." Football proved of no help to Schröder. (Covering all bases, Schröder is said to support three clubs: the working-class Borussia Dortmund, his hometown Hanover 96 and FC Cottbus from the east.) Plans to hold the election in September 2006, in the glow of a successful World Cup, went awry when events forced the polling forward by one year. Manager of the German national team, Jürgen Klinsmann, finds himself cast about, too, by uncertainties resulting from changes he has brought to the side: a different training regimen and his own decision to run much of team business from his home outside Los Angeles (see Rob Hughes, "The Big Interview: Jürgen Klinsmann," The Sunday Times [U.K.], 2 October). He has been summoned to an emergency meeting with the Bundesliga president the weekend of 22–23 October. He will be called to account.

Friendly approach to the game

Three recent issues of 11Freunde, Hard gras and Le cahiers du football.
Berlin, 1 August 2005 | German football magazine 11Freunde "reads more like a love letter than a typical sports magazine," writes Andreas Tzortzis of the International Herald Tribune ("From Soccer Field to Newsstand: View from the Bar Stool"). Following on its English predecessor in the football-culture genre, When Saturday Comes, 11Freunde launched in 2000 as the creation of Arminia Bielefeld supporters Philipp Köster and Reinaldo Coddou. Along with Holland's Hard gras and Le cahiers du football in France, it forms a quasi-literary quartet of "meta-communicative" challengers to mainstream glossies FourFourTwo (U.K.), kicker (Germany), Voetbal International (Netherlands) and France Football. The "meta" prefix comes from Franz Stuke, a professor of communications at Ruhr-University Bochum. Stuke classifies 11Freunde and like publications as a unique form of journalism, in that they are a sphere removed from direct reporting on events. Such journals—and The Global Game likely falls into this category—report not on the participants in sporting events, but on the observers. "It's this form of meta-communication, to communicate what you've experienced," says Stuke. "It's like theatergoers who after they've seen the play, want to see what the critic has to say. The die-hard soccer fan doesn't read that; he talks about it at the game and afterwards—but doesn't need to read it in a paper." With the 2006 World Cup finals less than one year away, the trend in Germany appears to be expanding with the first issue of Rund, produced by kicker publishers Olympia Verlag. One challenge in publishing against the grain is unforeseen popularity. Now that 11Freunde has been acquired by a large publisher, Intro Verlag, and its circulation has grown to 75,000, the pressure of meeting readers' perceived needs increases. "We have a certain relevance now," says Köster, "which is not always great."

Update: Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, author of Tor! The Story of German Football, writes that the two-pronged juggernaut of kicker and Sport Bild have, until recently, discouraged new entrants into the German sports mediascape ("Publish and Be Damned," ESPNSoccernet.com, 25 September 2005). With anticipation growing for the World Cup finals, however, a Sports Illustrated–like glossy, Champs, and the monthly Player are also in production.

Reprise: Soccer as ballet

A man and a ball: Sepp Blatter has a go. (Diether Endlicher | AP)
Munich, 9 June 2005 | Goleo VI—the lion mascot of "gormless" visage—featured prominently along with FIFA suits and Bavarian politicos as 2006 World Cup organizers acknowledged that one year remains until real players in real uniforms replace them at center circle ("Where's the Party?" Reuters, 6 June). Goleo was selected along with a giddy logo to project Germany in a positive, rather than dour, light. "Germans can be cheerful," said Interior Minister Otto Schily, "although to date this is not something we are

known for abroad." Yet Goleo has been mocked and a refereeing scandal and hooliganism have marred the buildup. "The last six months have been a disgrace," says Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of the organizing committee. But stadiums and transport are in place. And residents of Hamburg were scheduled yesterday to wear shirts of their favorite teams to work, "doing their bit to shake off stereotypical views of Germans as hard workers with little talent for enjoying themselves." So no worries.

download printable PDF Click for printable PDF
The Last Sane People on Earth

In Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano writes of the árbitro: "The only one obliged to run the entire game without pause, this interloper . . . breaks his back galloping like a horse. And in return for his pains, the crowd howls for his head."
We have been thinking almost constantly of late about referees. First, a confession: we have yelled at referees. We have sworn at them, even as recently as last weekend. So everything that follows is tinged with hypocrisy.

But the forced retirement of European referee Anders Frisk—the subject of death threats, conveyed over his private telephone line in Sweden (see Nick Harris, "Detailed Threats and Breach of Security Forced Frisk to Quit," The Independent [U.K.])—has created in us great disgust. Disgust toward those making the threats, whoever they are, and disgust toward Chelsea manager José Mourinho for lacking the responsibility to match his motivational ploys. Mourinho had harshly criticized Frisk after a Champions League match with Barcelona on 23 February and further insinuated that Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard had sought an illegal confab with Frisk at the interval. These accusations were made publicly, in the wider context of ongoing investigations in Germany into alleged match-fixing among referees in domestic football. Mourinho would not have needed to shed much subtlety to say: "The fix was on."

Our disgust transcends the level of individuals and attaches itself to the complicity of media and society in having created the demon "big soccer," the phantasm that appears to delude many into believing that these telecast spectacles actually merit such attention. We have always regarded the football pitch as a stage, illuminated by klieg lights. The events on stage are significant, but carrying menace toward Frisk or the other stage players exhibits a type of dementia—like accosting an actor who plays Hamlet for his indecision.

In this theater of the absurd, increasingly we admire the stolid referees for their small conclave of sanity, for their efficiency and somewhat wooden gaits. They keep note of infringements, hands gripping tiny pencils. Link to International Herald Tribune report from Frisk's hometown Göteburg They enter and exit the field as one, flags and other accoutrements tucked to the side. One might expect them to look self-conscious or embarrassed, but they carry a certain cachet. The match cannot take place without them. They get to shake everyone's hand, the gilded hands of Beckhams and Raúls.

We are not sure that Frisk fits this impressionistic view, for he looked a glamorous accessory despite his full-time job with Swedish insurance giant Folksam. But his life demonstrates heart and commitment. He has six children—concern over which apparently prompted his retirement—and gave of his time last year to participate with UEFA and the International Committee of the Red Cross in a mission to war-torn Sierra Leone. He and other well-known referees were asked to show that the rule of law has value by officiating a match and visiting families long separated by civil conflict.

We would be naive to think that football referees do not exert control outweighing that of officials in other sports. As the ongoing corruption case in Germany illustrates, a referee's integrity is all-important. A second German official has now been arrested on a match-fixing allegation, following the notorious confessions of 25-year-old Robert Hoyzer, who claims to have fixed several results on goadings of Croatian brothers Filip, Milan and Ante Sapina. At the Cafe King in Berlin's Charlottenburg district, Hoyzer's misdeeds allegedly were purchased for £46,000 and a plasma-screen TV ("Hoyzer's Whistle-Blowing Echoes across Europe," Daily Telegraph, 11 March).

The timing of the inquiry, said in February to be occupying 33 investigators, has proven inconvenient with the 2006 World Cup finals 15 months away (Paul Newman, "Whistle-Blowers and Fixers: Scandal That Casts a Shadow on the World Cup," The Independent [U.K.], 9 February). For reunified Germany, staging the spectacle proves a time for examining history and plumbing the country's soul, if nations have souls. For example, the Nazi past will be confronted at the Olympiastadion Berlin, the venue for the World Cup final. It has been refurbished to include a museum and plaques to memorialize the 1936 Olympics' glorification of Aryanism. One plaque marks Hitler's Fuehrerloge,

The mug of Robert Hoyzer, of whom Hamburger Abendblatt writes: "He has a fashion model's body, great looks and could be mistaken for the brother of actor Richard Gere."
"Fuehrer box" (Erik Kirschbaum, "Nazi Ghosts Leave Berlin's Rebuilt Arena," Reuters, 29 June 2004).

The scandal involving referees has recalled the Bundesliga bribery cases of 1971. In that inquiry, judge Hans Kindermann determined that 53 players from seven teams had taken money to fix games. The league suffered a large drop in attendance, teams lost their licenses, lives were destroyed. Yet Kindermann himself felt the game had been purged, although by the late 1990s he again had concerns: "Soccer has become a dance around the Golden Calf" ("1971 Scandal Nearly Ruined German," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 4 February). Questions exist over whether sports, with its excesses, should be a talisman for a reconstituted German body politic. Die Zeit writes that footballers "are the true heroes in these dark days" (quoted in Luke Harding, "The Game's Up," The Guardian, 4 February), yet FAZ keeps the more than five million German unemployed in full view:

The game has become a lifestyle event, played in new and renovated stadiums, and the league has good reason to hope that the fans will not be distracted by this winter's events. The attempt to use soccer in the service of an image-boosting campaign does carry certain risks given the cast of shady sideshow characters and con men hanging on the edges of the game. As a result, it does little good to paint an excessively positive picture of Germany using the colors of the sport called soccer. (Roland Zorn, "The Wrong Player for the PR Game," 4 February)

We are left grappling with an unknown: the inner life of a referee. A professor of organizational psychology at Lancaster University in the U.K. groups the job with police officers, traffic wardens, teachers and tax inspectors. The jobs are all vital, yet the practitioners are natural targets for criticism (Terry Kirby, "Position Vacant: Applicant Must Have Thick Skin," The Independent [U.K.], 14 March).

Fortunately, while we can only marvel at the inner steel of those like Frisk or Pierluigi Collina, we know of two currently practicing referees who bring their self-doubts and peeves into public view. Aaron Corman writes from Portland, Oregon, in Planet Soccer: his extended narratives are peppered with accounts of officiating indoor and outdoor games, including interesting game situations. As a side note, he also maintains a weekly social calendar more complex than what we have managed in the last 15 years. His musings are leading him to a trip around the world, watching soccer and keeping notes on culture. Second there is RefBlog, a harder-edged diary by a writer willing to ponder the shortcomings of his fellow man. He writes of his fiancée, for example, taking a hard shot to the stomach. When a shoe comes off her foot from force of impact, he is reminded of Charlie Brown being undressed by a line drive: "She didn't get knocked over, her legs didn't jerk around—it was just like there was a spring on the bottom of her foot that sent the shoe flying."

He imagines a series of commercials to promote a website of his imagination: soccerisnotlife.com. The idea is, by showing mundane examples of people violating the social contract—one man, for example, goes incendiary while accusing a grocery-store cashier of making a one-penny mistake in pricing lettuce—to point out the absurd behavior of players on the pitch, who sometimes take the sport much too seriously.

At the end of the commercial, the following words appear on a black screen: "What if we treated other people like we did referees?"

Update: Interviews with 720 women "proved the incontestable sex appeal of the referees," according to the Italian Institute of Social Marketing (Rob Hughes, "Final Whistle for Star Referee," International Herald Tribune, 31 August 2005). Collina stands out, according to one female psychologist, for his face and legs. This unnamed academic states that "[t]he referee has a magnitude of virility that the players, with their ear rings, their bleached hair and their showgirl poses have progressively lost."

The state history museum in Leipzig, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, and Sportmuseum Leipzig are cooperating on an exhibition to open 3 March 2006, "Lord of the Rules: The Football Referee." The exhibit will include old whistles and such: "Beginning with the historical roots of the role of the referee in antiquity, the exhibition presents milestones in football history, moving onto futuristic visions such as the [micro]chip-ball or the totally . . . technologically monitored match."

  • Lugano, Switzerland | 16 November 2003 . . . A surreal air surrounds Simon Kuper's meeting with Albert Sing, the lone survivor among international footballers who once played for Nazi Germany ("War Games," The Observer [U.K.]). Sing speaks of his hardships as a soldier and the propaganda surrounding Germany matches of the period—Simon Kuper's "Ajax, the Dutch, the War" has been shortlisted for the William Hill award for the best U.K. sports book of 2003 "What really offended me is that before the match, when the anthems were played, we had to give the [Nazi] salute until our arms were practically falling off!" Sing says. Yet Kuper is aware of all that is not being said. "We were sitting happily around [Sing's] living-room table, quaffing coffee and listening to the birds sing in the garden, and were getting on well, but a tension was emerging in our conversation." Kuper continues:

    In six hours of conversation . . . , Sing never once mentioned Germany's victims. He never denied that Germans had done terrible things, and he never offered a defence of Nazism ("It's nonsense, just as Communism is nonsense," he said), but the main victims of Hitler he was aware of were the German soldiers.

  • Wolfsburg, Germany | 11 November 2003 . . . To get those gastrointestinal juices flowing, the Wall Street Journal reports on the Volkswagen factory's unique VW execs with currywurst wieners. Click for more information on the automaker's best wurst.currywurst blends—a post–World War II sausage concoction that has become a prominent side business for the German automaker (Neal E. Boudette, "VW's Mixed Grill: An Assembly Line Turns Out Sausages," p. A1; available by subscription only). Grilled VW currywursts are available for $2.88 at the year-old Volkswagen Arena, home to the Bundesliga's VfL Wolfsburg. One can also order "a plate of two wursts, smothered in spicy VW ketchup, at the restaurant at Autostadt, the plant's theme park for car enthusiasts and customers."
  • Frankfurt, Germany | 20 October 2003 . . . S. L. Price shares his experience of the Women's World Cup final from local sports bars ("Where the Girls Are," Sports Illustrated, p. 23). Few people seem interested except one woman, who mutters "bitte . . . bitte . . . bitte" at the screen, praying for a goal. Celebrations after the victory are anticlimactic—"I'm sad about the attention this got in Germany," the woman says. "The women showed very good football, very elegant. But it's very machismo here." Attention paled to that paid to the European Championship qualifiers the previous day. In Europe, Price writes, "sports reveal best what bubbles beneath: The frightening passion, the national pride, the bald chauvinism that seemingly trumps all—even the fact that the women's final was better than any of the men's games played the day before." . . . In contrast to Price's account, though, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that television ratings for the women's final exceeded those for the men's European qualifier (link opens PDF file). So whom are we to believe? Could all the televisions have been on with no one watching?
  • Berlin | 1 October 2003 . . . Rebecca Santana of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the fascination with East German ersatz, 13 years after reunification. Click for the movie's home pageThis fascination is reflected in the movie Good Bye Lenin! in which a boy, whose mother was in a coma when the Berlin Wall fell, tries to convince her that nothing has changed. The football part comes as entrepreneurs try to sell satellite TV based on the attraction of the 1990 World Cup finals. For more on the film, see the Guardian's article of 24 July.
  • Baghdad | 8 September 2003 . . . The Iraqi national team has launched its 18-day tour of Germany, and the results are starting to come. Coach Bernd StangeStange has also begun his rehabilitation in the media after being photographed beside an image of Saddam Hussein, leading to Stange's demonization throughout Europe. The Times (London) portrays Stange as a savior for Iraqi football and as a friend of Sven Göran-Eriksson to boot. "This war destroyed football," Stange tells the Times's Daniel McGrory. "Of course, there are many things much more important than soccer. Iraq needs water, medicines, new hospitals but never underestimate how much football means to Iraqis." Stange's major complaints are about facilities. He blames a U.S. tank regiment for spoiling the team's training ground: "I won't call them bad boys in public until I've spoken to them, but you would think they would have repaired the stadium before they gave it back to us."
  • Reykjavik, Iceland | 6 September 2003 . . . Rudi Voeller has caught flak for his use of profanity following a scoreless draw with Iceland in qualifying for the 2004 European Championships. Voeller had harsh words for German TV commentators and, according to Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, Voeller "lambasted journalists 'on their high horses' as 'kill-joys' who are 'living in a different world' because they can't understand that Germany 'have played the first-placed team in this group.' " Personally, not having heard what commentators actually said, we're sympathetic to Voeller's frustration, especially his comments about journalists "in a different world." Now, a few days later, Germany having beaten Scotland 3-1, everything is all right, and we can pick on Berti Vogts for a while. (Vogts's side, by the way, is "distressingly unconvincing," according to The Scotsman.) | back to top