I’ve never been a fan of soccer. There is no better or straighter forward way to put says it other than that. Yeah, I played a little bit of soccer in grade school, but what person in the U.S. who is in their early to mid 20’s now did not play soccer as a kid. That was all there was to do for kids. Once I was done playing and found football, basketball, and anything else with a ball and I could use my hands I never turned back to soccer. Even growing up in a hot bed of soccer and watching the University of Virginia win 4 national titles, and then D.C. United threepeat still was not enough to make me a fan. Bottom line is you could not force me to watch a game. Well that’s exactly what happened to me this past weekend. I was forced to watch a game, and that game happened to be at the World Cup and it was Germany v. Sweden. Well my outlook about soccer may have changed now, well at least for a day.
This past weekend in Munich Germany was an eye opening experience, and if there is a way to watch soccer that the appropriate setting. Munich was alive with German pride from the moment we arrived on Friday. Oddly enough the most prideful people we first met were English, but it made no difference they were still ready for Germany to make a big statement against the Swedes. Sitting out in the town square drinking beers, and getting a crash course in soccer is how I spent my Friday night in Munich. Too bad I failed to remember a single bit of what my English friends told me.
Saturday was game day and Munich was out early, not as early as my 7 AM start time, but early. The town was buzzing with fans from around the world. The flag was flying everywhere the eye could see. Imagine Marti Gras, best way I can think of to imagine the athomesphere. We spent the day in front of Munich’s famous clock tower sipping adult beverages and taking pictures with anyone who was willing to stop.
Despite the importance of the game fans from both sides were very friendly to each other, and to us confused Americans. There were no signs of the stereotypical soccer hooligans, or extreme national pride that would cause a riot. There were just masses of people gathering in a spot to celebrate the accomplishments of both their respective teams, and gearing up for what would be the biggest game in the next four years for both teams.
The scene around Allianz Stadium was one that would make any American Football fan proud. Fans sprawled out across the parking lot, big screens around the stadium for fans viewing pleasure and tailgates minus the cars. Inside the stadium the buzz was electric. Moments before kickoff fans in the South end of the stadium held up signs creating the German flag, and showing headshots of the key players.
The small pocket of Swedish fans had no chance. Out of an announced crowd of 66,000 there may have been 3,000 Swedes. Despite that they were proud in their pocket of the stands where bright yellow and screaming as loud as they could despite the fact no one could here them.
Their cheers would soon fade away as the Germans scored their first goal at the 8 minute mark and again at the 12 minute mark. Lois Podolski would be the hero of Germany racking up both goals. After establishing a 2-0 lead the Germans put the game into cruise control as the Swedish team was shaken and completely unable to regroup from the onslaught brought on by Podolski.
One thing I will say is if you think slow down football or the old four corner offense ran by Dean Smith is boring, check out slow down soccer. With Germany stalling to burn out the clock to end the first half I found myself falling asleep in the stands. The soothing murmur of the crowd lulled me sleep.
Luckily the second half went by fast. Very little stoppage time, and the ball kept moving with both teams getting legit shots on goal. As time ran out the German team ran towards the stands and gave curtain calls for the fans. As they changed Berlin Berlin Frada an Berlin, Berlin Berlin we’re driving on to Berlin the site of the World Cup Championship.
The city would be electric all night as chants of German pride could be heard across the town and at every Beer Garden and pub and bar you could find.
It really was a great experience to watch a country come together and show so much pride for a national team. With the failures of the U.S. National team this Cup I felt robbed of the opportunity to celebrate like the Germans, British and so many others did as their teamed advanced. No other sport brings together a country as much as soccer does, and as a result we rarely get the opportunity to join together in celebration as Americans. Winning the World Basketball Championship just doesn’t hold the same level of prestige.
For one day I was a fan of the footy. I cannot say Ill be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next shot on goal… but maybe I will if its Podolski take the shot. While soccer will never replace my American sports or even my rugby, it has earned a bit of respect. If nothing else the fans have earned my respect as the best tailgate and the best all around fans you can meet. The World Cup generates an amazing athomesphere that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. For that reason alone it is an event that is worth watching even if you can’t stand the sport.
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