Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Joachim Low's heroes have inspired me to be a bit more German

Goalscorer: Mario Gotze
Goalscorer: Mario Gotze

A beautiful sunny day and hundreds of thousands of fans screaming "All you need is Low" greeted the World Cup winners when they arrived in Berlin on a specially customised Mercedes truck on Tuesday.

No expense was spared as the team sang and danced and made merry on a massive stage by the Brandenberg Gate.

It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that it actually happened: after 24 long years, we've won the World Cup again.

As a half-German and mother-tongue German speaker, I have enjoyed the German team and all who sail in her since infancy.

The last time Berlin saw a crowd like Tuesday's was back in 1990, when we celebrated reunification. Back then Germany was about to embark on a long struggle, which was to see more than £1bn transferred from West to East to support infrastructure and social programmes.

But casting off the shackles of communism was to be lengthy and arduous. Monetary union, subsequent migration and the cost of absorbing the East proved taxing on both sides. The German economy started sinking into decline and, coincidentally, so did the football team.

A 10-year plan to put Germany back on the footballing map was put in place in 2004. Traits like discipline, efficiency and a refusal to give up were the cornerstone of change. These were evident during the World Cup. But, luckily, other German traits came to the fore, too.

Germans are grounded; they don't get carried away. And neither did the team. After annihilating Brazil 7-1, they insisted that it meant nothing in the final. "We didn't celebrate. We were happy, but we still have a job to do," coach Jogi Low said after the match.

The people who created Mercedes and techno saw a turning-point in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. For the first time ever, people held their flags up high.

It was a far cry from 2002, where I saw one solitary flag hanging outside a window on my way to my local town to watch the Germany-Brazil final in Seoul.

All that has changed. Even the Berliners who were always reluctant to be seen to be "too German" were clearly partaking this time round.

What impressed me this year was that the world got enthusiastic for the Germans, for the first time in sporting history.

There were fewer 'Blitzkrieg', 'Panzer' and 'Wehrmacht' headlines in the tabloid Press. Though the word Nazi featured 95,669 times during the Germany-US match, it appeared that it was largely Americans thinking Nazi was another term for German.

Support came from celebs like Rihanna, Carlos Santana and David Hasselhoff. Some diehard English even like Germany now. It appears only lots of Dutch people and one or two frenemies have chosen to be begrudging, but who cares?

Goalie Manuel Neuer said we all won the World Cup and all Germans are world champions. So there. I just wish I could have been on stage in Berlin singing Eye Of The Tiger to the team.

In spite of that, it's all good news for Germany. Economically, it's the biggest capital exporter globally, recording a trade surplus worth €230bn (£181.6bn), while Bloomberg predicts the economy will grow 2% this year and next.

The team will dominate in the coming years and I am now inspired to be a bit more German.

No harm. In a week that saw my German half win the World Cup and my Irish half experience the humiliation of the Garth Brooks fiasco, I think I may be onto a good thing.

Perhaps we can all take a little bit of a leaf. But not too much. It just wouldn't suit us.

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