Mark Steel: Peace, love and England style angst as London's Germans watched it all

Fan's Eye View: Patrick couldn't impart his knowledge of the game without getting distracted by the girls
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The glory of the German team in this World Cup is that it appears to have been designed to annoy people who write letters to The Daily Telegraph. There must have been at least one that went, "Sir: As our traditional German foe now comprises a collection of Muslims, Poles and Turks, one suspects the wily, interfering hand of Camden Council has been at work. My uncle fought at El Alamein, but if he'd known we'd end up booing a politically correct midfield instead of traditional square-shouldered Germans with names like Gerd, he wouldn't have bothered."

Similarly, the hundreds of German supporters watching the semi-final in a south London bar didn't seem at all German, except for their German shirts, and chants of "Deutschland", and German flags painted on their cheeks. Not only were they as diverse as their team, they were as young and fresh and studenty, looking like a rock festival crowd, and it would have felt natural if the referee had started the game by shouting, "ARE YOU READY FOR A SEMI-FINAL, DURBAN? THEN GIVE IT UP AND GO WILD FOR GERMANEEEE VERSUSSS SPAAAAAIN."

If anything, they were too relaxed, contrary to their national image, like if you spent an evening with Texans and worried, "They seem very quiet, and they've hardly eaten a thing."

A group of teenage girls studied the game with impressive concentration, making comments that must be German for "Oh my GOD, Ozil's SO not going to cut inside to, like, get past Ramos and where's his midfield support? Like HELLO."

As the game went on, it occurred to everyone that Germany had the disadvantage of being unable to get hold of the ball. This infuriated Patrick, who's Irish but played for Germany at schoolboy level as his mother's German. But Patrick couldn't impart his knowledge without getting distracted by the girls, so his comments went, "Germany are sitting back and conceding possession but won't get a chance to break as they did against Jesus man, just to your right, Mark, to your right, she's like a supermodel, against Argentina, oh Jesus and her mate. They've got to use their width and bring Podolski into play more or they'll Jesus Mark will you look at the arse get caught by David Villa LOOK AT THE ARSE."

In the second half, as Spain got nearer to scoring with each attack, the German singing became punctuated with random frustrated yelps of tension, which was a friendly touch as it made the English feel at home. But in the middle of this tightly packed throng of foreboding was a group of three men and a guide dog. Because Ricky loves to go to the pub for the Germany games, but as he's blind he relies on Hans and Andy to take turns in commentating.

"One of the problems tonight," they said, "is there are lots here who don't watch football regularly, so they shriek as soon as the ball's in the last third of the pitch. Whereas regular supporters don't shriek until it's in the box. So we have to calm Ricky down as he gets misled by the part-timers' misleading shrieks." Throughout the game they took turns to lean into his ear and describe each move, and it might have been worth getting Patrick to add in expert summarising, except Ricky would be left wondering, "Whose arse? Has someone scored with their arse?"

When the Spanish went ahead there was a sigh all the more deflated as it seemed inevitable. This made Laurenz seem like the sweetest, campest, saddest Bavarian you could meet. At the final whistle, he waved his arms, placed his hands on his chest and said with heartbreaking meekness, "Now I have so much sadness in my heart. Oh dear dear, now I must wait four more years." Then, with his friend Ling from Berlin, he joined in a nearby discussion about the water industry, saying, "I am so happy to be discussing desalination plants, as it takes my mind off the sadness."

And that was as tribal as the evening got. The changes in Germany, reflected in their supporters, have happened across Europe and much of the world, so the young of the cities are familiar with people from dozens of nationalities, and the numbers working, living and marrying across national borders make them harder to define. So perhaps the screams of each country's supporters are a little more joyful and less packed with venom with each World Cup, and the old myths about nations are disproved by the reality people see.

As an English woman emerged from the toilet, she said: "There's no paper in there, but the Germans have brought their own. They might be diverse these days but they're just as bloody organised."

Comments