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.
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,….
‘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.