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Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

My parents' generation had good reason not to warm to the Germans but they rarely indulged in the kind of knockabout xenophobia we have to put up with in the run-up to Sunday's match. The strange thing is that the people behind it, the ones writing the links on Five Live and the headlines in the tabloids, were probably born in the 70s, long after the end of hostilities, and their jokey antipathy seems to owe more to viewings of The Italian Job, Dad's Army and The Great Escape than it does to anything very real. I heard football writer Mick Dennis on the radio the other day saying that he'd changed his mind about the Germans based on having gone there on holiday ten years ago. It seemed odd that you could have a prejudice so superficial that a few days in a pension was enough to shrug it off. It's not as if he went ashore on D Day and got shot at.

Maybe the key to our feeling about the Germans is in that line that gets attributed to Gary Lineker. "Football is a game with 11 men a side where the Germans win". We only keep referring to the war because we keep losing at football. Maybe it's a way to explain away our national lack of confidence by pretending it's something to do with the continuation of a noble struggle and not because, nine times out of ten, our multi-millionaires don't hold their nerve under pressure quite as well as their mere millionaires. We're very good at jutting out our chins and pretending it's all to do with the bulldog spirit. But then we make silly mistakes and give it away, much like Captain Mainwaring did when he said "don't tell him, Pike!"

6 comments:

  1. I was born in 1960. The war was as fresh in people's minds as Blur-v-Oasis. I reserve the right to despise the Germans, and indeed the Japanese. And the italians were they still in it.

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  2. It's all become a bit reflex joke in the media like all catholic priest being perverts, john prescott being fat etc...

    I think it has got less virulent though if not less tiresome.

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  3. I'm English living with a German partner in Holland. Despite the fact that this country was actually occupied by Germany during the war and that Holland - England is THE match for BOTH countries, she suffered far more abuse when we lived in England, all in the name of humour of course.

    It's just pathetic.

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  4. I'm English living with a German partner in Holland. Despite the fact that this country was actually occupied by Germany during the war and that Holland - Germany is THE match for BOTH countries, she suffered far more abuse when we lived in England, all in the name of humour of course.

    It's just pathetic.

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  5. It's always while watching England games in the pub like yesterday that I totally understand the 'anyone but England' attitude that you come across outside our country. War songs, racist abuse, vitriolic outbursts and the throwing of a pint over two german guys watching the game with their English mates by the unpleasant England fans made me ashamed and embarrassed. And then we wonder why many foreigners don't have time for us.

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  6. I'm afraid I'm rather in favour of prejudice in football (providing it remains on the terraces). Isn't there an argument that it's rather cathartic? I will shout abuse at Scousers from the opposite end of Stamford Bridge, or Germans from the opposite end of Wembley, and berate a whole bunch of unjustifiable attributes - and it certainly gets it out of my system. Of course I can't justify people chucking beer over someone in a pub simply because they support the opposite team - but if we can keep it to segregated stadia, isn't there something to be said for releasing all that in a few abusive chants?

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