Das Machine – Or how I learned to like the Germans

  At a certain unspecified point I stopped hating German football, and – whisper it – started to quite like it. As an Englishman, albeit an Anglo-Franco one, we are bred with niggling feelings towards our noisy cousins across the sea.

The British media stokes these flames with a fiery brand, often hailing the spirit of the blitz, and any other military metaphor that can be stretched to fit – or can’t – who cares – it’s the Germans, right?

Yet for as long as I can remember it’s been England who have been bent over and given the royal Schnitzel. The first I can really remember was 1996 – the year of the Three Lions. The entire country roared – then whimpered, as they did us again.

The last at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they hammered us the length of Africa, and back home – but the goal that wasn’t given, people cry – of course it was a goal – but anybody who thought we were matching the Germans can probably remember the last time we fought the Germans – for real. They were electrifying.

And so four years later Ze Germans marched into another World Cup. First up Portugal – one colossal man, and ten mere mortals. Portugal are not the best team in the tournament but they were dispatched with an almost arrogant ease – epitomized by the Uber German machine Thomas Muller. He didn’t even really celebrate his second and third goals – arrogant bastard. But what an Arrogant Bastard! But there was a jink in the armour – Muller had three shots, and scored three goals. Yet he was statistically Germany’s most careless player, giving away more passes than any other player – can’t pass to save his life but brutally efficient anywhere near the goal.

Ronaldo began shooting from somewhere back in Portugal, and failed to make even the slightest impact. In the first round of games, Germany have unquestionably looked strongest. And you know what, I really don’t mind that. They play scintillating football that even the Brazilian would drool over.

 So it made me wonder, what’s changed? The football is first, and most obvious. From the abomination that was their Euro 2000 campaign (as it must said was England’s) they addressed the issues in the most German of ways. Fourteen years later their entire system has been improved dramatically – most notably their youth development. It is now easy to lose track of young emerging starlets . The technical level of most is staggering. Secondly – and this might seem a bit stupid, but go with it – they look a more multiracial team now. Not that it should have ever been a problem – but let’s be honest, nobody likes looking at a team line up that has a striking resemblance to a Hitler Youth photo. It’s stupid, but it shakes off one of the final shackles that as an Englishman I always grew up with.

Lastly, I’ve spent numerous years away from England in the recent times., and without being bashed with the regular xenophobic mallet that English society often is when it comes to the Germans  – I’ve grown fond of them. I went to Oktoberfest – and despite many discussions about ‘not mentioning the war’ – we did, and spent a very enjoyably time sitting with a group of old men. Their openness (litres of beer will do that) was quite surprising, and they were wonderful guys. I enjoyed every minute of my time in Germany. Looking from the outside it all just seems a bit pointless now.

I dread the day England (or France) meet the Germans. The Sun newspaper will undoubtedly carry a mock up of Hodgson and the boys in army dress, preparing to give old Jerry a good hiding – again. After a few beers I might even mumble something darkly under my breath, about certain events in the past – but I don’t mean it. Yes Thomas Muller looks like an SS love child – and yes he clutches his face dramatically from the smallest breath of wind – but everybody needs to face it, this is how England need to be playing football. Fast, inventive and entertaining – solid and of course with a very German efficiency.

I dream of seeing England win a World Cup – but if they don’t I can only hope the best footballing team does. If that’s Germany, good for them.

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