Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fußball in Amerika

I took time out today from my extremely busy schedule to watch a World Cup game between Deutschland and Ghana. I'm not much of a sports fan, but it's hard not to become involved in Fußball if you spend any time in Germany. I was a Yankee fan when I was 5, 6, and 7 years old, played football (very badly) in high school, and since 1994, I'm a periodic Fußball fan.

Isenberger Platz, Essen

My interest typically peaks every four years at the time of the World Cup and I believe what I find attractive about soccer at that time, is the intense excitement and camaraderie that surrounds the game. When I'm in Germany, I prefer to watch the games in Isenberger Platz, a small plaza not far from the center of downtown Essen. It's a tree-filled square with a children's playground at its center and a combination of apartment buildings, second hand stores and cafes and bars on the margins. For some reason, there is a distinct Dutch slant to a lot of the businesses and one pub in particular, De Prins, recreates the atmosphere of the Netherlands as far as they are able. When World Cup games are being televised, they mount a large screen facing the square at De Prins and a friendly crowd packs in, sitting on parked cars and folding chairs. I find the vibe there particularly gemütlich.

The vibe at the White Owl in Logan this afternoon was decidedly different. The game was on one of five different wide screen TV's with the sound down. Serbia vs Australia was playing just three feet to the left moving down the bar and some American baseball team was playing on another channel. My companion and I were essentially the only patrons at the bar, so the bartender had no problem turning the sound up for us.

The soccer crowd at the White Owl

In 2006 Ghana beat the US team in a game I watched at De Prins, but the German team dominated Ghana in today's game. The German team controlled the ball for most of the game but scored only once. Ghana was obviously frustrated by the uncanny ability Germany demonstrated to work as an organized unit, but Ghana players could really take advantage of a slip-up on the German side and they came close to scoring several times. Philipp Lahm made a couple of great saves and prevented Ghana from scoring, but the hero of the game for Deutschland will certainly be seen as Mesut Özil, who scored Germany's lone goal. I've got a soft spot in my heart for Özil, who came up through the Rot/Weiss Essen team† and now plays for Bremen.

The German win was exciting, but something seemed to be lacking at The White Owl. I listened to hear the bar patrons begin singing "Finale, whoa ooooo ooooo oooo!" a traditional response to a win back in Isenberger Platz, but the only sound was the bartender listlessly shifting glasses on the back bar. A couple of distracted customers wondered aloud if this win would be good or bad for the US: a rhetorical question not worth answering. I'm ready for Germany gegen England now, but I'll keep my expectations low regarding the team spirit evidenced by the tired rummies at the Owl. I'll either bring my own vuvuzela, or just keep a low profile. Either way, I'm hoping to be back in Essen for 2014.

†Essen's premiere soccer team, Rot/Weiss Essen has had another bad year and it's very existence is threatened now. On my recent visit to Essen, I was able ask the Bürgermeister what the future might hold for this club: "Sie müssen schon wieder in der Fünfte Liga absteigen. Sie müssen mühsam und Schritt für Schritt wieder aufsteigen." It's a sad day for an illustrious club with appparently no support coming from the Mayor's office.

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