Posted by: Kennedy | June 14, 2010

Flags and Fußball

About a week ago, I got up at 6:30 and went for a run around the Schlachtensee, a small lake directly near my host family’s house. The weather is finally summery, so my routine is idyllic until the morning Müsli has been eaten and my partially-to-totally-unwritten Hausarbeiten descend upon me, demanding attention. I was surprised to see 5 cars proudly bearing German flags, one on either side. Five diplomats in a residential area at 6:30 am? Unlikely. It took several more hours of passing flag after flag on my way to class before understanding dawned on me: this sudden display of German patriotism was solely because of the World Cup!

The carefully orchestrated quashing of nationalism after World War II has left a stark imprint on Germany. In all my ten months of living in the capital, I have rarely seen a German flag except for those on the Reichstag. I’ve known for ages that one of my good German friends doesn’t really like soccer, but she told me this weekend loves watching every single German game in the World Cup because of the “patriotism.” For a girl whose father, grandfather, and cousins have served or are currently serving in the US military, the idea of patriotism being evoked most strongly by soccer players is a strange one.

Another case in point: for the USA vs. England game on Saturday, I joined a group of Germans, Americans, and Brits in watching the game at a Strandbar along the Spree. We switched on and off between German and English and joked with the Brits about stereotypes and the outcome of the match. When the teams entered the stadium, another American military brat and I quietly put our hands over our hearts and sang along to the national anthem. Particularly after spending the past year outside of my home country, not to mention having to put up with extraordinary quantities of America-bashing, our national anthem represents the positive values that America stands for: everyone’s equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Acknowledging that does not mean I think the USA does everything right, and I cringe at the stereotypes of Americans who are loud, obese, and arrogant that tourists too often confirm. But I am proud to be an American. A German friend near us watched in some amazement; then she simply commented that she didn’t know her national anthem.

The record of World War II in Europe is not limited to history books, understandably so. But it is my hope that Germany’s younger generations rediscover the love of one’s homeland that is possible outside of pure Europeanism and is different in every way from fascist nationalism. There’s more to patriotism than just Fußball.


  1. I watched the European Cup at a Strandbar on the Spree two years ago when I was first in Germany. It amazed me too, to see the sudden switch to patriotism. It’s certainly different than the US. I have American Flag flip-flops! And I know a whole two people that know the German national anthem.

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