CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
Soccer is certainly the national sport in Germany, and I am about as far from understanding it as one can get (off-sides? I can’t sit through another explanation of that one). I’m not much for sports in general, but my husband and his parents are very, very, very interested in soccer. They have lengthy discussions about players and teams and strategies. I always say that for me, this is like listening to a foreign language in a foreign language. I understand a fair amount of German, but I don’t speak soccer at all.
My husband can name all of the key players on the German teams, and where they played before, and where they are from, and how well they did last season, and probably their weight (I’ve never asked, but he’s a bottomless pit of facts.) One of his proudest accomplishments is winning his office’s fantasy soccer season two years in a row. So yeah, he loves soccer.
I gave birth to our first child during the last World Cup (2010). My German man was gravely concerned that I might go into labor during a Germany game. Lucky for him, I had a C-section. I’ll never forget lying in the hospital bed, a day after the baby was born, when the pediatrician walked in to check on our son. My husband was watching the Germany vs. Someone game on the hospital TV and showed little interest in the discussion of baby bottles and sleeping positions. As the doctor walked around the bassinet, she kept blocking his view of the game and he had to keep shifting his position in order to see the screen again. Shortly after she left, they lost the game. I suspect that my husband has never forgiven the doctor, as it was clearly her fault. This was in the US, of course. A German doctor would have known better.
My now 4-year-old son’s kindergarten has done all sorts of adorable crafts, from painting soccer players to playing with all kinds of different balls and talking about the rules of games. If you’re a kid, the excitement is pretty palpable right now.
In this last game (Germany vs. US), I stayed pretty neutral. I hope you won’t think it’s too unpatriotic of me, but I secretly hoped that Germany would do well, since I don’t really care that much and I had to continue to live with a German when the game was over. I watched the 2006 World Cup in Brazil, where I was on study abroad. When Brazil was knocked out, people broke down and cried. A man threw himself on the floor and was inconsolable. I definitely don’t want that atmosphere in the house, so I guess I’m rooting for Germany and the US at the same time.
If you don’t care about soccer, the fun can come from other sources. (There was no line at all at the Döner place where I bought dinner tonight). Whatever your loyalties, the games are definitely a great excuse to gather with other people (much like the Super Bowl, you don’t have to care about the game that much if there are nachos and beer!) If you can attend a public viewing at a Biergarten or in a public square, it’s easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm. Paint your face and get out there! Team spirit can be found as close as your own backyard, though. As I write this, horns are honking all over town and someone is shooting off fireworks in the park across the street.
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