The host nation fell out of the World Cup in the
semi-finals, but Germany has
plenty to smile about regardless, in the wake of the Cup.

The most striking achievement of this event was the
FanFests – enormous outdoor areas with giant screens, designed for fans without tickets to bond and mingle and watch together.

In soccer, this is something of a revolutionary
thought, given how fans are segregated in the stands and the history of
animosity and violence between supporter bases.

At the last World Cup, in Japan and South
Korea, the message from organisers was
direct and clear: do not bother coming if you don’t have a ticket. There were
outdoor watching areas, like a massive one in Seoul, but
they were designed to cater for locals, not tourists. Germany took
the exact opposite view: who cares if you don’t have a ticket? Come and join
the party.

And so hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists
merged to cheer, groan, drink beer and enjoy each other’s company for every
match – and in all major cities, not just those hosting games. Australian and
Brazilian fans posed together for photos, Germans and Italians watched the semi
on the big screen, side by side.

It was a fantastic concept and worked brilliantly.
After Germany lost
the semi, the Dortmund
station couldn’t cope with the crush of people and security forces were called
in to trickle people through the gates. It was hot and very humid, it was 1am, their team had lost and thousands
of people were left standing in front of armed guards, yet there were no
problems.

Which brings me to Germany’s
other victory – to present a new face to the world. This was always a goal for
the organisers; to dispel the idea that Germans are cold, efficient and
humourless. This World Cup has seen Germany take
pride in itself and fly its flag in a way it has apparently been self-conscious
about since the events of 60 years ago. Young people especially seem to have relished the
chance to be openly patriotic and factories were not able to keep up with the
demand for German flags.

It’s been fun to watch a nation open itself up to the
world and realise it is okay to be proud and to wave its flag. It wasn’t a
Basil Fawlty case of “Don’t mention the war.” There wasn’t any need to.

Peter Fray

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