Sadly, my instincts shout `Up yours, Deutschland'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
APOLOGIES TO my old German teacher, Mrs Jackson. In aus uber unter neben hinter zwischen vor - you did the best job a teacher could do.

Apologies to my childhood pen pal from Belsen, Herman, who always called goals "gates" for what I now realise was an entirely accountable reason. And apologies to all the German people I know, and all the partly German people I know, and any German or partly German people I know that I don't know are German or partly German.

And apologies to the Queen, of course, and her family. God bless them all.

And apologies to myself, and my family, if it turns out we are German or, partly German, which, given the Anglo-Saxon history of England, is quite probable.

Sadly, however, logic doesn't come into this. This is how it felt when I heard that Manchester United had won the European Cup: "Up yours, Deutschland!" Whence, I hear you ask, does such unpleasantness spring? I am not proud of the outburst. It felt good for a gloating moment, but it came from what I know was a stupid, dark place - yes, the space between my ears. There is, though, a resonance to this fleeting emotion which is not to be ignored.

I like to think the sentiment has its roots in recent sporting history rather than my own cultural heritage. Because that makes it easier.

I am recalling now the comics of my youth - the Victor, Tiger and Hurricane. The latter's eponymous hero, Captain Hurricane, would habitually brush aside the carping rhetoric of his faithful batman and bare down upon nests of German machine-gunners in an indomitable "towerin' fury" before hurling the said gunners to all corners of the environment.

As they sailed out of the picture, the Germans always said the same thing. In the language of the Sixties comics, "ach" was the German expostulation of choice. Japanese soldiers, on the other hand, cried "ayee!" And British Tommies, in the rare event of their encountering anything more damaging than a winged arm, exclaimed "aargh!"

That was how it was.

Unlike me, my son does not constantly see or read about Germans being the enemy. For him, enemy means Ivan Ooze, Darth Vader or Lord Zed. I am pleased about that. It still, though, leaves the problem of me.

As I say, I prefer to think my sudden upsurge of anti-Germanic feeling stemmed from the memory of sporting hurts.

The 1966 World Cup was the first time football registered on my consciousness, and by the time England played West Germany in the final I was sweaty- palm desperate for them to win. They did so, of course, presenting me with a dangerous precedence: England beat Germany at football.

Like a first-time winner barging back into the betting shop for easy money, I soon learned that things were not as simple as they seemed.

I remember England losing 1-0 to Germany in Hanover two years later; the traumatic volte face of the 1970 World Cup, the demoralisation wrought by Gunter Netzer at Wembley in 1972; West Germany's World Cup victory two years on, without even an English challenge.

Then the 1990 World Cup semi-final - defeat on penalties. Then the 1996 European Championship semi-final - defeat on penalties.

All this hardly needs to be said, does it? It's simply there - the knowledge that German football teams beat English football teams. Because they are very, very well prepared - how dare they have rehearsed all those penalties? - and very, very good. And very, very used to winning.

In recent years, England's only consolation has come at club level as Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest have beaten German opponents in the European Cup final.

When the national side meet again the result is just as likely to be a familiar one, however. And, of course, Manchester United's winner was scored not by an Englishman but a cherubic Norwegian. And, of course, Bayern were incredibly unlucky. And, of course, Geoff Hurst's second goal in the 1966 World Cup final wasn't over the line...

Stop that now. Let's not think about that at all. Let's think about this. Yes, Bayern Munich 1, Manchester United 2!

There is no logic to this - it is all about a very childish glee. No doubt that if I were to take myself off to some plump Hampstead couch, I would be told that it was something I needed to address. But as far as I am concerned right now, it might as well be return to sender.

I watched The Big Match replayed until 3.20 am. I relished every minute of it. I haven't ruled out getting the video. Sad but true...