Thursday 30 October 2014

Germany's return to form in World Cup an inspiration to all

Barbara McCarthy

Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30

Germany's Per Mertesacker celebrates the team’s 2014 Brazil World Cup victory.

A beautiful sunny day and hundreds of thousands of fans screaming 'All you need is Löw' greeted the World Cup winners when they arrived in Berlin on a specially customised Mercedes truck yesterday.

No expenses were spared as the team sang and danced and made merry on a massive stage by the Brandenberg Gates.

It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that it actually happened: after 24 long years, we've won the World Cup again and the feeling is indescribable.

As a half-German and mother-tongue German speaker, I have enjoyed the German team and all who sail in her since infancy. Now we are number one in the world and we've broken every record in Brazil.

The last time Berlin saw a crowd like yesterday's was back in 1990 when we celebrated reunification, the same year we won sport's greatest prize.

Back then, Germany was about to embark on a long struggle, which was to see over €1.3bn transferred from west to east to support infrastructure and social programmes. The victory back then was a kind of teaser for our long-lost peoples. 'Come join, welcome to the west'.

But casting off the shackles of communism was to be lengthy and arduous. Monetary union, subsequent migration and the cost of absorbing the east, proved taxing on both sides. The German economy started sinking into decline and coincidentally, so was the team.

As negative growth occurred during the 1990s, the team suffered their worst results in years, culminating in a one-point score in Euro 2000. By that stage the economy stagnated too.

A 10-year plan to put Germany back on the footballing map was put in place in 2004. The German 'Tugend' to self-critique started the process. Traits like discipline, efficiency and a refusal to give up were the cornerstone of change. These were evident during this World Cup. But luckily, the other German traits came to the fore too.

Germans are grounded, they don't have delusions of grandeur and they don't say they will do something unless they are actually going to do it. People can be relied upon and are helpful and kind.

They don't get carried away and neither did the team. After annihilating Brazil 7:1, they insisted that it meant nothing in the final.

"We didn't celebrate. We were happy, but we still have a job to do," coach Jogi Löw said after the match. He is a very unassuming, nice man altogether, according to my mother's friend's friend, who lives next door to him in Freiburg.

The people who created the Wirtschafswunder, Porsche and techno saw a turning point in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. For the first time ever, people held their flags up high. It was a far cry from 2002, where I saw one solitary flag hanging outside a window on my way to my local town to watch the Germany/Brazil final in Seoul. All that has changed. Even the Berliners who were always reluctant to be seen to be 'too German' were clearly partaking this time round.

What impressed me this year was that the world got enthusiastic for the Germans, for the first time in sporting history.

There were less 'Blitzkrieg', 'Panzer' and 'Wehrmacht' headlines in the global tabloid press. Though the word Nazi featured 95,669 times during the Germany/US match, it appeared that it was largely Americans thinking Nazi was another term for German.

Support came from celebs like Rihanna, Carlos Santana and David Hasselhoff. Some die-hard English even like Germany now. It appears only Eamon Dunphy, lots of Dutch people and one or two frenemies have chosen to be begrudging, but who cares. Goalie, Manuel Neuer, said we all won the World Cup and all Germans are world champions. So there. I just wish I could have been on stage in Berlin singing 'Eye of the Tiger' to the team.

Despite that, it's all good news for Germany. Economically, it's the biggest capital exporter globally, recording a trade surplus worth €230bn, while Bloomberg predicts the economy will grow 2pc this year and next.

The team will dominate in the coming years and I am now inspired to be a bit more German.

No harm. In a week, which saw my German half win the World Cup and my Irish half experience the humiliation of the Garth Brooks fiasco, I think I may be onto a good thing. Perhaps we can all take a little bit of a leaf.

But not too much, it just wouldn't suit us.

Irish Independent

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