Germany's the Winner as Football Changes All

Article excerpt


THE roar which went up in this inferno of a stadium when the Germany team came out to face Italy was taken up in every city, town, village and hamlet across The Fatherland.

It was the loudest clarion call yet to a new way of life, one which is enabling German men, women and children to take open pride in their country for the first time in more than half a century.

Tens of millions of Germans took to their World Cup fan zones, their city squares, their streets and their bars to link arms with a future born of a shared experienced, a collective euphoria which has transcended generations of suppressed patriotism.

Those too old or infirm to go out to this gigantic party watched on smaller screens at home.

In part, Germany has been drawn out of its old, stilted self by the million World Cup visitors who have joined with unconditional gusto their celebrations of a team which has exceeded all the host nation's expectations.

One of FIFA's themes for these Finals reads: Football Can Change The World. It is changing Germany, for sure.

A surge of optimism unfettered by the mistrust of others and the self-flagellation of decades gone by has made the effect of this World Cup more cathartic for Germans than even the fall of the Berlin Wall.

That was the political symbol not only of German reunification but the collapse of Communism.

This is the popular expression of one-nation unity.

Germany now has a football captain, Michael Ballack, as well as a Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who were born in the poor old East. Both were in attendance in Dortmund, living testimony that the bitter jealousies of yesteryear are at a permanent end.

The astonishing Fan Mile in Berlin, which houses the most tumultuous of these match-night congregations, begins at the Brandenburg Gate, once the forbidding symbol of the East-West

partition which not only separated German from German but set brother against brother.

Now it is the Brandenburg Gatecrash. Last night they lengthened that mile so as to raise its official capacity from 750,000 to 900,000 but it was estimated that a million crowded in to watch Germany's victory over Argentina - with yet more to come for this semi-final. …