Football Fancy, World Cup 2018: Bitter Sweet Symphony
One hour before the kickoff of this year’s World Cup final between Croatia and France, a German TV station showed a documentary about the final four years ago, when “Die Mannschaft” won against Argentina.
The memories, now bittersweet, came flying back to me, and – like many Germans today, I presume – I felt extremely nostalgic, finding myself cheering once more when Mario Götze scored the winning goal and again shedding a tear with Bastian Schweinsteiger at the final whistle.
It’s hard to let go. But move on we must.
Even though I was hoping for Croatia to win and write history – and I commend their passion, fighting spirit and remarkable achievement to reach the final – this World Cup has found a deserving winner in France. Congratulations, Les Bleus!
Speaking as a German, this tournament was nothing short of a disaster, but as a football fan, this World Cup was quite entertaining, with many surprises along the way.
Some of the golden rules in football have become null and void: Germany is never eliminated in the group stage – well, I guess there’s a first time for everything, however painful it may be. Either Brazil, Argentina or Germany always make it to the semifinal – nope, not this time. The English simply can’t win a penalty shootout – Gareth Southgate and his Three Lions beg to differ.
While illustrious football nations failed to leave a mark this year, countries like Belgium and Croatia have shown that one should never underestimate dark horses, and it was a pleasure seeing them advance to the semifinal and final, respectively.
I thoroughly enjoyed these last four weeks of football, although I must admit that getting through the group stage was quite a challenge. I distinctly remember one day when my sister and I were extremely tired and decided to take a nap in between two games. Shortly before 5
PM – I had just drifted off into Neverland – I felt someone nudging my arm.
“Come on,” I heard my sister’s voice. She still sounded half asleep herself and wasn’t even capable of putting together full sentences. “Football. Next game. Can’t sleep. Have to watch.”
But the fatigue and weariness are symptoms that we experience during every World Cup – it simply gets harder with old age.
Despite this very entertaining way to spend my time, football, or more accurately, some football fans (if you can even call them that) were at their worst during the World Cup, especially on social media. I’ve been a Twitter user since 2010, and during big football tournaments, I usually use this platform more actively than usual. I can’t remember to have seen so many malicious, hateful, racist and homophobe comments before. Sure, I get it, a lot of people use the anonymity of Twitter to vent and let off steam. But never before have there been so many vile threats against players and their families, death threats even, often of xenophobic nature – for giving away a decisive foul, missing penalties and golden opportunities or netting an own goal.
Sweden’s Jimmy Durmaz, Denmark’s Nicolai Jorgensen, Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo, Brazil’s Fernandinho, Colombia’s Mateus Uribe and Carlos Bacca – the list of players who had to endure racial and verbal abuse and have been threatened with bodily harm and even death is long.
And let’s not forget that the heated and often indefensible discussion about Mesut Özil is far from over. Only on Friday, Martin Hohmann, a member of the German parliament and right-wing party AfD, posted a picture on Facebook that showed himself in a football stadium, and the following question in big white letters: “Do Turks have to be in the national team?”
Football, in the view of many, myself included, speaks a universal language and can unite people from all over the world. But this World Cup has shown me, more than ever before, that football is also capable to create a huge divide – and this, to me, is a heartbreaking realization; one that has spoiled my mood and curbed my enthusiasm over the past few weeks.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t want to watch football anymore. At this very moment, I am grateful for a little break (at least until August, when the Bundesliga starts again) – but four years from now, I’m sure I’ll be ready to witness the world’s biggest sporting event yet again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put aside our differences by then and focus on the one thing we all love so much, the one thing that brought us together in the first place – playing ball!