First Published in , June 5th 2006

Remember just one thing: Don’t mention the score

Being the German Comedy Ambassador to the United Kingdom is getting more difficult by the day. Apparently, England are only a few weeks away from winning the World Cup and, despite a bus-load of broken bones, have been speeding on the “Autobahn to glory” for months now.

The excitement is tangible in the comedy clubs up and down the country, where I as German Comedy Ambassador get heckled with evergreens such as 5-1 and Two World Wars and One World Cup on a daily basis. I must admit I don’t understand the latter. I follow football very closely but to my knowledge, the USA have never won a World Cup.

Hosting the tournament is a great honour for the Fatherland but it couldn’t have come at a worse time as Nationalmannschaft, the German team, isn’t what it used to be. German football has been struggling for some time now. In fact, we haven’t won a major international competition for ten years and haven’t even been to final of one for almost four. Would you believe it?

Talking of all those years of hurt, the British media make a big deal of what England fans are allowed to sing in Germany and how well or not songs about 10 bombers or the number of balls of a former head of state sit with the locals. In fact nobody will mind as long as it’s not a Sunday or past 8pm, the times when Germans like a quiet rest.
Let’s be realistic – what are England supporters expected to mention if not the war? I have lived here for the past four years and can’t remember a single programme on telly that featured Germany before 1933 or past 1945. Let me put it this way – if it wasn’t for the BBC I still wouldn’t know how to goose step. I therefore wasn’t surprised in the slightest to hear about plans (later cancelled due to “bad weather”) to open David Beckham’s World Cup party with a fly-past of a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Lancaster.

With a week to go, hundreds of thousands of England supporters have already bought their Marmite jars and are ready for their trip to the Fatherland to meet the friendly locals and policemen. I heard the other day that Germans are now better liked abroad because of the current 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.

But the travelling fans could not have wished for a more scenic country to visit. Forget Margate, Rimini and Benidorm – Germany is the most beautiful holiday destination in the world. Hamburg and the sea in the North, Munich and the mountains in the South, the Ruhr valley and its coal mines in the West and Berlin and its former glory in the East. Not that England will make it to Berlin.

On that point, it was good to see the collective relief of Eriksson, the FA and all true England supporters once Wayne Rooney injured his metatarsal. This provides them with the perfect excuse for failure before a single ball has been kicked. To be fair, with or without Rooney, England look to be in good shape. Not good enough to win it but definitely good enough to do another Henman, i.e. getting the whole country excited and then crashing out in the quarter-finals.

And hats off to Sven Goran Eriksson for calling up Theo Walcott. The young Arsenal striker might be the future of international football. Gone are the days when 22 players, all leading players from their respective clubs, came together and fought for their positions. Many a player left with bruised ego after being confined to the bench. Some silent, others vented their anger openly at the manager, team-mates or press. This won’t be the case with Theo Walcott as sitting in the stands is exactly what Arsenal pays him for all year round.

But it’s going to be very interesting to see how England cope with the extra pressure of this being their last ever chance to win the World Cup again. Not because the Irish will invade within the next four years but because FIFA announced that World Cup 2010 will see the introduction of an intelligent ball, which will indicate whether it crossed the line or not. It is a shame that this technology had not yet been invented in 1966. Where was German engineering when we needed it most?

My predictions? I would like to see Michael Ballack parading the World Cup on an open top bus through Brandenburger Tor but will be happy if in a month’s time I’m not worrying about a whole new set of English heckles. But until Germany win again, this will be my reply: “Three World Cups and One World Pope!”

Enjoy the World Cup – Auf geht’s Deutschland!

Posted by Henning Wehn on Monday, June 5th, 2006.
Filed Under: Writing


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