Ein Olympia Stadionbesuch….oder….Fussball, Faschismus und Fluchen.

Zwei Dinge im Deutschen Fußball gefallen mir besonders. Erstens, dass, im Vergleich zu England, man ihn nicht zu ernst nimmt . Viele Menschen versuchen sich daran zu erinnern, dass sich Fußball am Ende nur lohnt, wenn er Spaß macht. Und zweitens die Fans. Und von denen werdet ihr mehr hören bevor ich zum Ende dieses Blogs komme.

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Als ich im August 2012 in Berlin ankam, feierte die Bundesliga ihr fünfzigjähriges Jubiläum. Im Fernseher lauschte ich dem Bundesliga Presidenten, oder Vorsitzenderm oder wem auch immer, als er in seiner Saisoneröffnungsrede im Nordrhein-Westfalen Stadion von Borussia Dortmund immer wieder betonte, dass Spieler, Zuschauer und Clubmitglieder mehr als je….Spaß haben müssen.

Das war auch die Botschaft letzte Woche im Olympiastadion von Hertha BSC hier in Berlin, wo wir gekommen waren um Hertha gegen Hoffenheim spielen zu sehen. Als wir versuchten unsere Plätze zu finden, wünschten uns von der Ticketverkäuferin über die Stadionordnungskräfte bis zur Polizei alle “Viel Spaß”.

Natürlich ist es sehr leicht für einen Ausländer sentimental zu werden. In lezter Zeit haben Pep Guardiola, der Trainer von Bayern München, und Jurgen Klopp, der Trainer von Borussia Dortmund, sehr zickig reagiert, als Journalisten mit ganz normalen Fragen bloss ihren Job gemacht haben. Aber die Diskussion hier im Fernsehen und auf der Straße ist viel weniger ernsthaft, moralisch und hochtrabensd.

Diese pompöse Art von Reden, die mir hier nicht fehlen, haben selbsternannte Fußballexperten vor kurzem in England im Fernsehen in England, über den Kopfstoß vom Newcastle United trainer, Alan Pardew, perfekt illustriert.

‘Ich habe nie im Leben Etwas so Entsetzliches, so Schreckliches gesehen.’

‘Das ist eine Schande’

‘So etwas soll nie passieren dürfen.’

…vergessend, dass fast alles im Leben wichtiger ist als Fußball, und das Fußball immer eine Gradwanderung auf der Linie von Genialität und Aggressivität, von Freundschaft und Gewaltbereitschaft und Täuschung ist. Wenn man nie von diesem Grad abweicht, dann funktioniert Fußball nicht.

In diesem Zusammenhang haben mich letztens die Worte des ehemaligen deutschen Nationalmannschaftsspielers, Uwe Seeler, sehr erfreut.In der Halbzeitpause wurde Uwe gefragt, welche Taktik er für die Spieler und den Trainer des Hamburg SV, der schon zwei Tore kassiert hatte, vorschlagen würde, um Bayern München wieder einzuholen in der zweite Halbzeit dieses Pokalspiels. Mit unsterblichen Worten antwortete er.

‘Das ist mir scheißegal.’

Scheint, als hätte er nie von einem Fußball Medienberater gehört! Hamburg hatte nicht die Kraft Bayern zu schlagen; in der Tat verlor das Team; und weil die Mannschaft in Abstiegsgefahr in der Bundesliga stand, war das Spiel am folgenden Samstag viel wichtiger.

Und dann klingelte Uwes Handy; in welcher Jacken- oder Hosentasche er es hatte, hatte er vergessen. Gefühlte zwei Minuten suchte und kramte erund am Ende fand er es nicht, es hörte nur auf zu klingeln. Und alle haben gelacht. So soll Fußball sein, ein Anlass ein bisschen Spaß zu haben.

Bevor ich zurück zum Thema Fußball kehre, möchte ich zwei oder drei Worte über die Deutschen und Fluchen auf Englisch sagen. Empfindliche Engländer sollen eventuell den Rest dieses Paragrafen überspringen. Im Allgemein scheint es hier weniger anstossend zu sein zu fluchen als in England. Und oft benutzen Deutsche englische Schimpfworte in einer Art und Weise, die für Englander sehr komisch klingt. In ganz normalen Situationen, zum Beispiel, bei Aldi, fällt einer älteren Dame ihre Dose Hühnersuppe aus der Hand und sie sagt, leise aber klar, ‘fuck.’Oder in Popsongs, die ansonsten sehr langweilg sind, bedauert die Sängerin..

‘Ich habe dich so lieb, aber jetzt ist alles ‘shit’….’

Sogar in ernsthaften, seriösen Medien, wie im Deutschen Radio Kultur das ich in letzter Zeit gehört habe: Die Kanzlerin war im Begriff aus Brüssel zurück nach Berlin zu fliegen wo, im Bezug auf die NSA affäre, sie einen “shitstorm” erwarten könnte. Als Englander frage ich mich immer, habe ich das richting gehört?

Aber zurück zum Olympia Stadion und den Fans. Die, männlich und weiblich, sind laut, dreist, bunt und vulgär. Sie trinken Bier und essen Wurst vor dem Spiel, und während des Spiels singen sie ohne Ende. Es erinnert mich an den ‘Kop’ in Anfield, bei Liverpool Heimspielen in den siebzigern Jahren, viele Fahnen, viele Lieder und viel Spaß. Ohne Zweifel waren die Fans die besten Elemente des Tages. Das Spiel selbst war eher langweilig, ein unentschiedenes 1-1, eine Endsaison Partie; weder Hertha noch Hoffenheim hat viel zu verlieren oder gewinnen. Die Stimmung war besser als sie in England heutzutage normalerweise ist, vielleicht weil die Fans noch überwiegend Arbeiterklasse sind, und noch Arbeit haben, und im Vergleich zu England die Tickets viel billiger sind. Deswegen gibt es hier viele jüngere Fans.

Naturlich könnte ich viel über die Geschichte des Olympia Stadions schreiben. Obwohl man die pompöse Architektur fühlen und sehen kann, hat glücklicherweise der schwarze Leichtathlet Jesse Owens durch seine Siege bei den Olympischen Spielen in 1936, das Stadion zu einem entäuschenden Ort für Hitler gemacht, und die Hertha Fans setzen gegen die prunkvolle, Naziarchtektur mit volltönender respektloser bunter Leidenschaft.

Die Einrichtungen für Behinderte sind ziemlich gut. Hitler and und seine Kumpanen töteten viele Tausende von Behinderten. Die Behinderten- und Begleitepersonentickets sind hier umsonst. Von den Behindertenplätzen gibt es einen sehr schöneen Blick auf das Feld. Und es gibt eine große Menge von uns Rollies hier. Daher….. F**k Adolf!…..wie Uwe sagen würde!

Zum Schluss möchte ich sagen,dass ich nie im Leben eine neue Lieblingsversion von Rod Stewart’s Lied ‘Sailing’ erwartet hatte. Aber auch die haben die Herthafans mir geschenkt

Singende Hertha Fans

Tagebuch. A visit to the Olympic Stadium

A visit to the Olympic Stadium.

……..there are two great things about German football, firstly that it is much less pompous, or to use a common expression, (and common expressions, or umgangsprache  will be a theme in this blog) ‘up itself’ than English football, and secondly the fans, who we will hear from (literally) before the end.

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As I arrived in Berlin in August 2012 the fiftieth anniversary Bundesliga season was just kicking off. The league president, or some other VIP, declared the season open by telling us that what we all had to do, players, officials, fans was….. have fun. And that was the message, ‘viel spass’, have a good time, from the tickets sellers, the stewards, the security staff, everybody as we attended the Bundesliga game between Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim a couple of weeks ago.

Now its easy to sentimentalise and both the Bayern boss, Pep Guardiola and the Borussia Dortmund boss, Jurgen Klopp, have been tetchy and bad tempered recently when everyone hasn’t behaved exactly as they wish, but in general the way people on telly and on the streets talk about the game is much less moralising and pompous than in England. The kind of indignant language that greeted the Newcaste manager Alan Pardew’s recent (non) headbutt from the ‘experts’ on Match of the Day,….

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‘I’ve never seen anything so disgraceful in my life. There’s no place for that behaviour in the game. I don’t know what the game is coming to….. etc etc.’,

……kind of forgets that pretty much everything in life really is more important than football. …and as if the whole point of the game isn’t to be constantly reinforcing and dramatising that edge where competitiveness and aggression become excessive and illegitimate. In that sense if players and managers don’t break the rules sometimes then they ain’t doing it right.

In this context I was bowled over by a recent appearance of the German 1966 World Cup hero, Uwe Seeler, as a half time ‘expert’ in the recent Cup competition meeting between Bayern Munich and Uwe’s old team, Hamburg SV. When asked how his team were going to come back from being two nil down to probably the best team in Europe right now, he replied.

‘Es ist mir scheiss egal.’ in English, ‘I couldn’t give a crap.’

No mindless agent schooled media adviser platitudes here, just the truth. Because Hamburg weren’t going to come back (they didn’t) and the following game, on the Saturday was more important, given that Hamburg are currently in a bit of a dodgy spot as regards relegation. Before he could answer the next question his mobile phone went off and Uwe spent a good couple of minutes of prime time on Gemany’s equivalent of BBC1 bumbling without success through his pockets failing to find his mobile which eventually just stopped ringing. Brillaint! ……

Before getting back to Hertha, just a brief word on Germans and swearing. Sensitive English souls should move swiftly on a couple of paragraphs. It seems to be less offensive to swear here in Germany than in England. And in particular some Germans use English swear words casually in a way that sounds very strange to English ears. This happens in general conversation, so little old ladies dropping their chicken soup tin in Lidl will emit a clear and unmistakable ‘Fuck!’.

This can alsobe a jolt in otherwise perfectly tedious love songs as the singer croons……

‘Ich hab dich Lieb, so Lieb, aber jetzt ist alles shit.’

…..leaving you wondering as an English person if you could possibly have heard it right…..

……and can be heard even in mainstream news. So I was listening the other day to the lunchtime news on Deutsche Radio Kultur, the equivalent roughly of the World at One on Radio 4 and the news reader described Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, being on her way back from Brussels to Berlin where, and the English word leapt out from the beautifully enunciated High German, a ‘shitstorm’ about US spying activities awaited her.

So the other thing that’s great is the fans. They are colourful, loud and brash, male and female, tanking up on beer and sausages before the game and singing their hearts out during it. And they remind me of being on the Kop back in the 70s, loads of flags, songs and lots of fun…..although of course as an Evertonian I didn’t sing along…. And the fans were undoubtedly the best thing about being there yesterday. The game itself being end of season half baked fare. The reason why they’re ‘better’ here of course is because the English game has it roots and its heart in the North West and that area continues to take an economic pummeling. Here the fans are still overwhemingly working class, as in still actually working and in theory at leastown most of the clubs. The tickets are far cheaper (though prices are rising), and cheaper tickets means younger fans.

I could talk about the stadium and its origins in the Nazi government period, but thankfully Jesse Owens, the black multi gold winning sprinter at the Olympics here in 1936, made it a miserable place for Adolf and, although you can feel the pompous conceit that animated its creation, perhaps its best just to say its still a dramatic setting, which the Hertha fans bring to raucous, swearing, profane, vibrantly disrespectful life.

And the arrangements for disabled fans, (thousands of the disabled were murdered by the Nazis) are great. A brillaint view and tickets are free for both the disabled fan and the person accompanying them and we’re here in good numbers.So up yours Adolf!…. as Uwe would doubtless say!

Finally one thing I never thought to have in life was a favourite version of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’. But the Hertha fans have given me that too.

Try the video below. The words they sing are ‘Nur nach Hause, nur nach Hause, nur nach Hause in Berlin.’…meaning rougly ‘we’re on our way home, on our way home, on our way home back to Berlin.’ Rod, a great footy fan himself of course is doubtless very proud.

the hollowness of the times

the hollowness of the times.

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Berlin graffiti on contemporarty relationships and identity.

Back in the ’70s, my Dad, was amongst the first to have a sense of the irredeemable fatuity and vacuousness of the coming neo liberal times.

In moments of Indian Pale Ale induced loquaciousness on smokey after-school afternoons, this lifelong socialist would say that the absolute best thing to be was, and here his Dublin brogue would give way momentarily to the Home Counties, ‘of independent means’. As that decade soured into the head on reversals of the 80s, at least for Liverpool folk, he turned to simply snarling, ‘Get the money son, just get the money.’

In marked contrast to these words was the message in the Liverpool Christian Brothers school I attended in the mid ’70s. I can remember a particular English lesson discussing Bill Naughton’s story collection, ‘The Goalkeeper’s Revenge’. The short, goateed and fiercely irascible Mr Smith asked us had we anything to say about one of the characters’ assertions that…

‘….you never owned nowt rilly unless you’d made it yusself or earned the munney to buy it.’

We looked at him bemused. He stalked the front row and. as pupils today would say, ‘got in our faces’.

‘Anyone at home?’, he dripped saracasm into our silence.

He prowled to the back, gently fuming. Then,his tone now painfully bereft.,’….nothing?’

Appalled, he stormed back to the front and slams his copy on the desk.

‘Isn’t it true for God’s sake? It’s true isn’t it?’

He stared at us wide eyed and disbelieving. Exasperated with ourselves, sighing and tutting we could only nod and shake our heads amazed at our own stupidity.

I think the French philosopher Louis Althusser had exactly this kind of exchange in mind when he redefined ideology in the 70s as simply the weave of elementary assumptions out of which our world and our sense of ourselves is made. In Althusser’s famous example when a policeman calls out in the street we all turn believing in both the policeman’s authority to call us to account and our own flawed natures. That Mr Smith felt justified in his anger came from the fact that in this weave of assumptions, that he, as a good follower of the Cambridge literary critic, F.R. Leavis, often referred to as just ‘Life’, we’d failed to articulate the blindingly obvious, that unearned material gain was no real gain at all.

As it turned out, of course, my Dad’s bitter imprecations turned out to be a better guide to future developments. What’s interesting though is that Mr Smith’s specific point that unearned wealth may indeed not make you happy is still ultimately true, Western societies no longer make any effort to knit together the weave of such humane, civilised assumptions that might make it feel like its obviously, gobsmackingly, ‘can’t say you’re a grown up person if you don’t get it’, kind of true. That is, unquestionably there true, just like Althusser said ideology should be. And with it of course any, as it were, ‘official’ expectation to act accordingly.

What we have now, in contrast to that ‘fullness’, that warm broth, of social democratic ideology is the thin gruel of hardnecked neo liberalism where even the sick are expected to be business like about it and the goal for everyone is to realise their individual potential, ideally as an entrepreneur and then a ‘rentier’, usually of property, and thereby getting to that ideal state…. ‘of independent means’.

As Nancy Fraser (1) has argued these neo liberal ideological fragments have been, mostly unintentionally, energised by the coopting amongst other things, of feminist campaigns for the recognition of women’s rights. So, although at one level, everybody can celebrate the fact that Christine Lagarde or Angela Merkel are achieving the powerful positions formerly marked for men only, the message of their success is often inflected to suggest social disadvantage is no longer holding any woman back and if you’re not a ‘success’, well, you know who to blame.

In his in vino veritas kind of way, my father had a premonition of this same ideological manoeuvre in relation to disabled people. What ‘the powers that be’ as he called them wanted, was for disabled people to become ‘can do’ types who cheerily told all and sundry they did not need or want help.

I only fully understood what he meant when I watched the Paralympics from London in 2012 and, realised these disabled people, though I admired them like I admire all sporty types, were healthy disabled people, whereas most disabled people are old or sick. Not writhing in agony sick (although of course some are) , but the kind of sick where the only personal best they’re aiming for each day is taking less than a couple of hours to get up and dressed.

The Paralympics were, for me, a huge global event that dovetailed neatly with this wilful blindness of neo liberal ideology, ‘celebrating’ the disabled, but hiding sickness, disease and dependency. Is it a leap too far to suggest the lack of an irresistible public outcry at the appalling targetting of disabled people for cuts by the British government is, in part at least, related to this Olympic uncoupling of disability and sickness, or more broadly, dependance?

Indeed Baroness Warnock, distinguished philosopher of ethics, has made the modest proposal that older people should they begin to suffer with dementia really should consider whether they have the right to expect care from others and if their dependancy shouldn’t perhaps be curtailed by their taking their own life. Presumably she expects the disabled, faced with dementia, should take particular note.(2)

But accepting, as Fraser suggests in summary, that in our society’s attenuated self image, ‘there is no self evidently good adult dependancy’, what does that leave our sense of what ‘Life’, as Mr Smith would have said, is? And the answer, given one has achieved as Fraser says ‘the androcentric ideal of individual independance’, would seem to be ‘fun’ and, in a ‘ ‘psychologising’ of our hollowed out social relatons, self help or self improvement.

This is being addressed creatively in remarkable contemporary films, such as ‘Gloria’ from Chile, or ‘La Gran Belleza’ from Italy depicting a generation in later middle age, who have achieved independance but have by definition no one they can depend on or who in turn needs them (with the exception interestingly of still older women, who are their home helps, but seem to exist in a somehow anchored world the main characters no longer know how to find). So they party, smoke, go to discos, and have casual sex.

A neighbour of ours here in Berlin, ‘unattached’ as she says, well in to her seventies, botoxed and breast implanted, recently asked my wife how old her father was.

‘Early sixties’, she replied.

‘Ah,’ said the neighbour, ‘exactly my target group’.

Bungee jumping, paint balling, tree climbing and all manner of other challenging adventure activities are also favoured means of trying to revive jaded horizons of pleasure. A German friend of mine recently announced he was going to the Hungary, ‘because there’s a place there where you can fire real tanks.’

For Althusser, of course, when control of people by Ideological State Apparatuses, like education or the media, is palpably wearing a bit thin, then the state will turn to repression. So perhaps the ‘powers that be’ realise the game is pretty much up ideologically, so we are presented with drones, total surveillance, secret prisons and what the German political philosopher Rainer Forst has called the ‘strange Gods’ of the absolutely implacable markets.(3) Like at the first stage of the Inquisition, the state is showing its people the torture instruments, just so we’re all clear they’re there.At other times it feels as if our global spy masters are like the fifth century Saint Simon Stylites sitting atop his pillar in the desert, free to observe, but with the global villagers regarding them as irrelevant and just a bit embarassing.

And that’s exactly where we should seek to keep them by confidently arguing that our current culture is based on wholly inadequate scraps of ideas about who we are and is specifically blind to both the interdependance that is the fundamental condition of our happiness and the radical fragility that makes us who we are.

1. Nancy Fraser. Fortunes of Feminism. Chapter 9 (Verso 2013)

2. London, December 14, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com)

3. Rainer Forst. Der Spiegel. No.34. 2013. P.106ff.