Football Fancy, World Cup 2018: The Day I Almost Died
Saturday, June 23, 1.00 PM: I had hoped that this day will never come, but here we are. It’s all or nothing for the German team. A defeat means elimination in the group stage. I only vaguely remember how this feels like. I have this blurry memory of the Euro 2004, when Germany failed to advance with only two points in the group stage. In the 14 years that followed, we have always managed to come through. We can do it again, right?
3.15 PM: I am changing into my Schweinsteiger jersey. I have abandoned all my usual rituals after Germany won the World Cup four years ago, except for this one. I miss Schweinsteiger. I’m not saying that Germany would play better if he’d still be around. I’m just saying that I miss him. That’s all.
7.00 PM: I feel a sense of resignation. As I mentioned previously, something feels off during this tournament. I take a look at the line up: Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil on the bench. Really? I wanted Özil to play, to score at least one goal, so he could give his haters a metaphorical middle finger – unfortunately, I won’t get this satisfaction today. I look outside the window: it's rainy, grey, cold, even though summer has officially begun yesterday. It does mirror my mood. Doomsday.
8.00 PM: I must admit, I’m extremely nervous. Much more than I thought I would be. What’s happening to me? I thought I'd be relatively composed. I’m calling over my dog and start petting him frenetically because it usually calms me down, but he only shoots me a disdainful look and vanishes behind the sofa (we will have a serious conversation about this tomorrow!). I grab my sister’s hand. A Pillow. My beer bottle. Anything.
8.53 PM: I’m sitting on our terrace, the wind blowing cold in my face, a cigarette in my shaky hand. My sister joins me shortly afterwards, bringing along a glass of whisky.
“I can’t believe that it’s already over before it actually began,” I say in disbelief. My sister doesn’t respond, and I look at her, searching her face for reassurance, a sign of hope – after all, she has always been my rock in times like this, a steady source of comfort. But the expression on her face is just as blank as mine. She tries to smile but fails miserably, lighting up a cigarette instead.
Whenever I lost a football-related argument in the last four years, I ended it with “Whatever, we won the World Cup.” I will miss that!
Half-time. 0-1. It hurts. It really does.
9.10 PM: There it is, this little ray of hope, thanks to Marco Reus. But it’s small. So small I can hardly see it.
9.40 PM: Oh come on, Jerome! I always was your biggest supporter, I defended you when people said that you are one of those players who are constantly on the brink of a red card, I saw you develop into a great, bigger-than-life defender, I would have loved to be your neighbor - and THIS is how you repay me?! By being sent off?!
9.41 PM: I'm so sorry, Jerome, I didn't mean it. My emotions got the better of me, truly, I didn't mean it.
Injury time: My dog doesn’t understand why my dad disappeared on the toilet and doesn’t seem to come out anymore, why my sister is pacing up and down the living room, and why I’m sitting on the sofa, petrified. A draw simply isn’t good enough, we need another goal, but we are running out of time so quickly. There – another free kick.
And Toni Kroos just whips the ball into the far corner. Just like that. There is a single second of silence in our living room, before my mom runs to the bathroom and yells at my dad to come back “THIS INSTANT BECAUSE WE SCORED!”, my sister shakes her head in disbelief, her hands in front of her mouth, tears of shock in her eyes, and I let out a high-pitched scream.
We are still alive!
If he could, I swear, my dog would roll his eyes.
11.00 PM: I’m lying in bed, watching Toni Kroos’ miraculous goal on loop. My sister, next to me, is already in Neverland (she finished half the bottle of whisky by herself). The adrenaline is still pumping through my veins; there is no way I can sleep now. And I have to do this all over again on Wednesday? No, wait, I’m not ready! I need more time for regeneration! In this moment, I begin to smile. It is the moment in which I realize something: This is it! I’m. All. In.