It's not Goethe, it's Goetze.
A match for eternity it was: Germany versus Argentina, in the 2014 World Cup final. Not as spectacular or remarkable as the semi-final Germany - Brazil, but with a result that no German will ever forget. And the billions of tv watchers all over the globe neither. The match itself will be forgotten, the result and Germany's goal won't. As the best team of the tournament, Germany has become 'Weltmeister'. And generations will always remember. And, when thinking of Germany, think about this team instead of German poets or composers. Thanks to one brilliant action in the extra time.
It's not Goethe, it's Goetze.
I remember it well: the 1990 World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. Simply because it was the first one I ever saw. An incredibly boring match, containing one highlight: Andreas Brehme's penalty kick, a few minutes before the end. After a 'Schwalbe' by Rudi Voeller. No matter the match's boredom, Germany was World Champion, in the middle of the country's reunification process.
Here Brehme kicks his penalty kick at the place where this process started: the Boesebruecke in Berlin, where at the night of November 9th, 1989 the first opening in the Berlin Wall was created. Power to the people.
Here they are: the last German World Cup winners so far. The team of 1990. Marching towards the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. A unique team spirit, in unique times. The German team won the World Cup half a year after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, exactly in the middle of its country reuniting process. The Brandenburg Gate, still walled in only a few months before, became the symbol of the new national unity.
More than two decades later, a modern country has emerged: the modern Germany, politically powered from Berlin, has become the leading European power. A self-conscious country, with a high self esteem. Which might have reached its highest point right now, in the final weekend of the 2014 World Cup.
In this new German self esteem, symbolized by the likes of Kroos, Mueller, Khedira and Klose, football has played a central role. The 2006 World Cup in Germany was the crucial moment, the moment that Germans for the first time hanged the German flag at their balconies, painting the national three colors on their faces. Like the gay population every year celebrates its Gay Pride parade, the 2006 World Cup was the 'coming out' of a country, the milestone event in the new 'German pride'. After being in taboo spheres ever since the Second World War for understandable reasons, the German flag suddenly transformed into something positive: a new German flair.
It's a flair that in that 2006 tournament also for the first time defined the German 'Mannschaft'. After having the reputation of playing very defensive, yet still winning in the last minute, the German team suddenly played football more swinging than ever before. Also the Germans themselves have been feeling this new wave: since the 2006 tournament Berliners gather up with hundreds of thousands at the Brandenburg Gate each match, proud of their country. It's a pride that becomes more and more every tournament. And can be traced the most intensively at the Brandenburg Gate this Sunday night. The place that once marked the Berliner's longing to freedom, is now the center of the 'German Pride' movement.
Powered - of course - by 'Die Mannschaft'.
The World Cup final will be played by Germany and Argentina this year. For the third time in history already: in 1986 Argentina won a spectacular game in Mexico (3-2), four years later the Germans won 1-0 a very colorless final in Rome.
They did this however, in a very special period in German - and world - history: the historical German reunification of 1990. Only half a year after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, in the hea(r)t of the reunification process, the West German team won the World Cup - by operating as a strong collective. Fueling with their result also the feeling of German unity, in both former countries :West and East Germany.
This picture represents that moment: The Germans beat the Argentinians due to their team spirit. And are practicing on the field in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, which would soon become the political heart of the modern Germany.
After Germany severely trashing Brazil, many people tend to believe they will face the Dutch in the final this Sunday. Whatever the results of the Argentina-Netherlands match might be, there is one thing in which the Germans definitely swipe the Dutch: World Cup fever. When it comes to World Cup feeling, and dedication to follow the entire tournament in public places, Berlin easily trashes Amsterdam the same way Germany did to Brazil. Alright, the same way Germany did to Portugal some weeks ago.
We all know of course that all around the globe people gather up to watch World Cup matches. But the way they do can be very different. In some countries people watch mostly at home with their families, in others the World Cup is a crucial part of public life for a few weeks.
Berlin, my city of residence for the last six years, is one of those places. Germany’s capital is a city one of a kind. Also in its collective public World Cup watching, simply called 'Public viewing'. For the duration of the tournament, it looks like the World Cup is literally everywhere on the street. Every single match can be followed on every single screen in every single bar, beer garden or terrace... The World Cup is a major outdoor event. Restaurants that don’t have screens simply don't have much clientele for a month. No matter Russia-Korea or Honduras-Eduador, people are watching. Like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Even gay and lesbian Berlin has its own ‘World Cup Arena’.
It's a phenomenon that is pretty recent: since the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Germany actually. This tournament was the first time Germans massively “outed” themselves wearing the national colors black, red and yellow. With this, they gave their flag a positive connotation and pride, and left behind the country's heavy history behind for a moment. But also, the Germans massively went out of their homes and onto the streets. They gathered up to see every single match in social atmosphere: outside, on the streets, at terraces and in beer gardens.
Ever since, ‘public viewing’ is the key term to every European or World Cup. In Berlin, for example, the World Cup is something very public, in which the whole city participates. And every location that shows the matches wants to be as special as possible: in classic 'Weimar times' cinema Babylon for example a woman plays the 1920s organ live during the match, giving some situations on the pitch suddenly a slapstick feel. East Berlin cult team 1. FC Union easily tops this creative setting: they opened the doors of their stadium to the World Cup. People brought their sofas to the pitch, to watch the matches in the world’s biggest ‘World Cup living room’. Watching World Cup matches in public: it's simply thing to do in the times of the tournament.
In the capital of the Netherlands it is not. During the tournament's first week I was in Amsterdam for a few days. And of course, I wanted to have a look at the World Cup scores. Belgium vs Algeria was about to start. And I was thrilled about seeing it. But walking on the streets in the city center it took me half an hour to find a place with a big screen to show the match. It was placed in a restaurant. People however, only showed up after the end of the game. Asking why there was nobody in the restaurant, the waiter said: ‘Well, there was football’.
Walking next to the city's famous Van Gogh Museum, I also saw the place where the Amsterdam population is supposed to gather up to see the matches of the orange team. A miniature place, compared to the huge ‘Fan Mile’ in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where up to 200,000 Germans gather up to see their 'Mannschaft' play. But also other matches are shown here, attracting the city’s Swiss, Belgian or Argentinian population. In Berlin, the World Cup is the event of the year, for five weeks in a row. It's a wonderful excuse for people to meet up together, and meanwhile get to know some other cultures. In the Netherlands, people simply watch at home. Partly because it's the most comfortable, but also because there are hardly any other options.
There were days that Amsterdam was symbolizing the - once - liberal Netherlands Dutch society. It is not these days, however. The day before the Netherlands would play their World Cup semi-final against Argentina, the mayor decided that only one big screen would be allowed in town, located in one of its suburbs. Others screens, more centrally located, would cause ‘too much noise’. Same story in some of the other bigger cities in the Netherlands. The Netherlands may play a World Cup semi-final tonight, on the streets of its capital it might be easy to miss. Which even for this match won't be the case in Berlin at all.
So whether or not they reach the final, in it’s capital’s World Cup fever the result is already very clear: Netherlands- Germany 0-4.
The upper picture is from Amsterdam, saying 'Don't play football because of the noise'. The pictures down are from Berlin.
This project loves football - and toys. And has found its favorite way of watching this year's World Cup: in Lego.
Brick by Brick is a great series by British newspaper The Guardian, in which already some historic World Cup moments were featured. And now also the tournament's opening match: Brazil vs Croatia.
Sometimes there’s miracles on the pitch. Moments that you sit down watching, and see the unbelieve happen. You can only sit down, and amaze. Last night’s Dutch victory on Spain was one of those moments. 45 stunning minutes were enough to crush the world champion 5 to 1. And to find my mouth more open every single minute. Is this really happening?
Oh yes, it was. Just like it was suddenly happening in 2010 World Cup, when Netherlands beat Brazil in the quarter finals by playing a sublime second half. In both matches the first half didn’t really point into the direction of the end results. And in both cases, no-one talks about these first halves anymore.
In a way, the amazing thing is the impact of these last 45 (maybe 47 for this match) minutes. Being in Brazil (where my wife and family-in-law come from), several times the past years, there were many conversations in which I only had to say that I’m Dutch or mention these 45 minutes at the Nelson Mandela Stadium to instantly get the feeling of being respected.
And the same happened last night. While Robben and Van Persie kept on scoring goals, thrashing their opponent like it would be some Luxembourg or San Marino instead of the ruling world champion, I kept on receiving messages, from all over the world. It was friends from Germany, Austria, UK, Brazil and India who all shared my – and my country’s – amazement. Who congratulated me, because I am Dutch and apparently because they like me. Because I am their connection to the country.
And of course, they were all asking themselves the same question: Is this really happening?
My Brazilian sister-in-law and her husband were watching the game at home in Sao Paulo. Due to their new Dutch family connection, which also made them visit the Netherlands themselves and get a personal experience, they were completely dressed in orange. After the match they told me that they had even cheered more for Holland than they did for Brazil the night before.
And it especially at that point where football really can make a difference: in gaining a personal experience, in connecting to a culture. Since I met my wife, for example, I support Brazil, even sometimes wear Brazilian jerseys. I feel closely connected to the country, and its culture, and don't mind showing this.
Since I have been in Croatia, Portugal, Uruguay and Argentina, and met some wonderful people there, I also feel a lot of sympathy for their teams. Something which, without having the personal connection, would've been less likely.
It's the personal experience that makes the difference in getting to know, to respect and to love the world and its rich variety of cultures and people.
A lot can be said about this tournament of course, for better or worse. But when matches motivate people to visit other countries, to gain a personal experience, or when people feel connected to a culture because of personal conenction. that's one of the best side-effects possible. Whether it is in the big or in the small: in the end it's personal experiences that are a valuable key in crossing borders, in opening eyes, and in overcoming prejudices.
But remarkable it remains. That several people in several countries are cheering for the Dutch team because of me, because I happen to be born somewhere in Netherlands.
It makes the global connection of football get to a very personal level. And the other way around.
At least until the next Dutch match, that is...
That the magic of football connects cultures like nothing in the world, I experienced personally during the previous World Cup, 2010 in South Africa. During the entire duration of this tournament, I was traveling the Balkan Countries in a very special way: joining Dutch musician and theater artist Tjerk Ridder on a remarkable journey, of human connection: hitchhiking with only a caravan, but no car. To show that 'You need others to keep you going'.
The Caravan Hitchhiking Project (now available as a book written by Tjerk and me in Dutch, English and German - as well as a multimedia theatre program by Tjerk Ridder with Matthijs Spek in the same languages) was an inspirational journey, a connection journey, a universal journey, in which we traveled from Utrecht, Netherlands to Istanbul, Turkey, with a caravan, but without a car. Everywhere along the way, Tjerk and I were looking for people with a tow bar to bring us further, out of the central philosophy ‘You need others to keep you going’. A symbolical travel - to show that we all need human help, and that we are stronger and more happy when we follow our dreams, help each other out and look further than our daily routines.
See the project introduction video here:
The second half of the trip took place in the Balkans, and exactly during the period of the 2010 World Cup. And the tournament? It was everywhere! Traveling Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey during the weeks of the tournament, I discovered not only the World Cup was dominating each country, but I also felt the gigantic power of the universal language called football—in the big as well as in the small.
In total, I experienced the World Cup in seven different countries: Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey on the way to Istanbul - plus Germany and Netherlands on the way back. We were just back in time to catch the amazing Orange fever, on the days before the final in which - we all know - the Netherlands featured - but lost again.
And in every country we were the World Cup was present - and everywhere it was in different ways. On a shabby terrace on a parking lot in front of the Hungarian-Croatian border a barkeeper tried to install his satellite tv just in time before World Cup kick-off (a boring zero-zero ending France-Uruguay). In Belgrade hell broke loose around us, directly after Serbia had beaten Germany. And in Sofia, instead of playing chess, the old men on the streets were gathering up to watch Brazil-Portugal.
Before getting there however, we got stuck. For days and days. On a depressing gas station in the southeast of Serbia. Trying all we could to get away, which definitely didn't work out during matches, we were at one moment invited for a beer by two Serbian truck drivers. They didn’t speak anything but Serbian, and couldn’t write anything but Cyrillic, but when they found out what our exclamation ‘Holanda’ meant, they could name the whole Dutch star team of the 1974 World Cup. Better than I ever remembered it myself.
I was flabbergasted. By the human connector called football. Which makes football stars the major communicators of their countries or cultures—more than any political, economical or artist development. I decided that writing about this universal football language in the book we'd made of the Caravan Hitchhiking Project was not enough for me: I wanted to visualize my feelings in a project. I wanted to connect the worlds of football and art. I wanted to communicate history and culture—on the pitch, but most of all: aside of it.
Shortly after, this project was born. How that happened. I explain (in English) in this video presentation, recorded in front of a live audience in Berlin, Germany. Enjoy, just like this year's tournament!
I remember it well. Being a nine-year old boy. Being magnetized by the magic world of football.
The 1988 European championship in West-Germany. It was the first tournament I ever followed. And I did very intensively. Seeing every match, every second. Being very superstitious during the matches of the Dutch eleven: after they had lost their opening match, I started to exclaim ‘no no no’ non-stop in the following matches, at the moments the opponent had ball possession. Driving my dad crazy, but it worked out: The Netherlands won the title.
But most of all it was of course Marco van Basten, the hero of the tournament. Who didn’t play in the opening match (in favor of – does anybody remember him? – Johnny Bosman), but directly scored a hattrick in the second match against England. Who scored the winning goal against West-Germany in the semi-finals. And who striked an incredible volley against the Soviet Union in the final, making Holland win a big tournament, for the first – and so far only – time in history. I sat two meters in front of the television. Saw a country going completely nuts. And, knew I had played my part as well.
I was nine years old, an introvert school boy in the small Dutch town I came from. I had hardly travelled further than the Belgian border, but was in my first passionate relationship: the one with the local library. I was eager to learn. About the world. About other cultures, other places, other histories. And football was the perfect instrument for that. It was my window to the world. Even in the Rotterdam suburb called Vlaardingen.
Soccer made me create my first concrete image of faraway, exotic countries. Of Brazil. The first ever Brazilian that was printed in my mind was their legendary striker Romario, who, after the 1988 Olympic Games, started to play in Holland, for PSV Eindhoven. By seeing him wearing gloves and long pants in snowy winter matches, I realized for the first time that European winters must be cold for Brazilians.
By seeing Romario as a pardo in the Brazilian national team, surrounded by brown, black and white players, I started to learn about the melting pot of cultures that Brazil is - for a major part due to its big immigration history. And it all has had its influence: twenty-five years later, shortly before the 2014 World Cup I got married to a wonderful woman from Brazil.
In those 'Romario days', the first World Cup I actively followed, Italia 1990, was also way more for me than a sports tournament. It was an explosion of cultural exchange. By seeing all the players, the way they look, the flag, the fans, faraway countries started to become alive for me. They became a face, a flag, a color.
For the first time in my life, I got images of countries I had barely heard of: Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, even Uruguay. It was Diego Maradona, dribbling in his blue-white shirt, who put Argentina lively on my mental map. It was the yellow shirts, with red and blue lines, that put Colombia in my consciousness. And after having shot the first African country ever into the World Cup’s quarter finals, Cameroon’s amazing Roger Milla, learned me his continent couldn’t be reduced to just starving kids surrounded by malaria mosquitos - the image that most western kids unfortunately have. Dancing around the corner flag, Milla taught me that Africa had an amazing lively and swinging side as well. In which players could even be commanded to the pitch by the president.
By bringing together so many countries, so many people, so many cultures in the World Cup, football became my introduction to the world. And so it became for millions of little boys, somewhere out there.
Soccer might have become way more globalized and commercial ever since, for current nine-year olds there’s hardly any difference. Whether they live in Ghana, Nepal, Latvia or Sweden, they simply have their heroes, their favorite teams. Playing on the school yard, they identify themselves with Ronaldo, Messi, Zlatan or Van Persie. They learn about the world by staring – and being – at the pitch. And whatever will be the result of the 2014 World Cup, one thing we already know for sure: it will shape their sense of the world – to a deeper level than we might now expect.
It’s them for whom this project is.
All this nine-year-old kids.
And the old.
Connecting worlds and cultures, that's what Peter Bijl (Netherlands, 1979), originally a journalist, does. As a transmedia artist (in writing, photography and film), as a consultant, as a curator, as a speaker, as a inspirator: Peter is a cross-thinking storyteller.