First Published in The Independent, March 3rd 2006

Do not get too excited, Englanders – you haven’t got a Pope

Being the German Comedy Ambassador in the UK circuit isn’t easy at the best of times but it gets even trickier if Nationalmannschaft, the Germany national team, do not perform. And this week, German football reached another low when we were trashed 4-1 by Italy. We are such easy prey at the moment that when Italy were 2-0 up after ten minutes, our old friends didn’t bother wasting the next 70 minutes rolling around on the floor and defending as usual but actually decided to attack. At least it wasn’t 5-1.

With fewer than 100 days to go until Germany’s World Cup opening game against Costa Rica, people from Munich to Hamburg are now fearing for the worst. Years of preparation and anticipation and this time we could be written off in the group stage before anyone can say “you can’t write off the Germans”.

This latest failure does not come as a surprise, though, as German football has been struggling for some time now. In fact, we haven’t won a significant international competition for almost ten years and haven’t even been to the final of one for almost four. Can you imagine?
Really the failure of German football is only part of a much bigger problem in German society, though — complacency. Hard work, decency and determination are out of public favour since the reunification.
Last year’s final of the Confederations Cup in Hanover showed what is wrong with modern Germany in a nutshell. Germany were 3-2 down and fans started singing and celebrating because they felt so well “entertained”.
This outrageously inappropriate behaviour would not have happened in the good old days. The players would have been publicly condemned and pelted with stones. There must be no praise for losing. We are not Scotland.

Recent research suggests that Germans are now better liked abroad because of the present economic failure. This apparently makes Germans come across as more human. I must admit, I preferred the days when we were regarded as clinically efficient super-humans and won the World Cups to back this up.

Right now the only thing we Germans can be proud of is that we own the Pope (which I like to tell any Italian who thinks it’s funny that we lost 4-1). In fact, I’m so disillusioned with our team that I would accept a deal where Germany crash out in the group stage as long as the same happens to England and, first and foremost, to Holland.
Three World Cups and One World Pope!

Posted by Henning Wehn on Friday, March 3rd, 2006.
Filed Under: Writing


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