still his attacking heart

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Dreaming of a German English final

When I first arrived in Germany, I’d already become fascinated by international football tournaments, such as the World Cup. What I didn’t yet understand was the rivalry between the English and the Germans.

Not only when it comes to football, but for a myriad of other reasons it’s one of the most intriguing relationships. One book on cultural differences I read went so far as to say that the countries have some issue in part because their citizens are so similar.

Point this out to an Englishman, and he’ll likely deny it till he’s red-faced. Often a sign that there’s some truth to such a thing.

Many of the Germans I know love to ridicule aspects of modern British society and the quality of the English football side in recent years has been one of the easiest things to poke fun at.

However, my introduction to this rivalry came at an earlier time when the English were, shall we say, more competitive. Let me just say as an aside that I’ve waited to write this until both teams made it to at least the second round of the tournament. England may or may not be punching above its weight, but things are looking relatively good for the Three Lions right now and I’m writing this while their prospects are still a bit rosy.

It was late summer of 2001 and my neighbour Achim knew I was interested in football. Because of that, he invited me over to watch the match. He was an older German, who has since retired and moved with his Canadian wife back to her country (where all their grandchildren live).

The sad part of the story is that it wasn’t entirely certain whether Achim would live through the evening. I’m not exaggerating. Not remotely.

England was visiting and playing here in Munich and the tension in the city was even obvious to a newcomer like myself. One of the most well-known traditional restaurants in the city centre had been the scene of rival fans throwing the litre glass beer mugs at one another. Just for pure animal excitement, this was quite an evening to be watching football in southern Germany.

Am not entirely sure anymore the order of who scored which goal, but it was evident before the break that England had the far superior team that evening. Suddenly Achim was telling me I needed to call an ambulance for him. Later I found out he’d had a mild heart attack while watching Germany’s atrocious defending.

You’d think this would’ve put me off football entirely, but instead I was only more intrigued. The truth was I wanted to know more of what this was about.

Here are some pieces I’ve recently written for the Munich Timesabout both the English and German sides in their campaign to win a European Championship. Firstly, there’s Three Lions roar back to beat Sweden and before that I wrote about the Germans playing the world’s most expensive footballer in Germany manages their way around Portugal

Like I’ve said before, I’m doing my best not to write about football here everyday. Each time one of these competitions rolls around, I desperately hope for a German English final. The likelihood of that is so slim (it might even be impossible due to how the semifinals are set up), but that doesn’t stop me from hoping. What a dream that’d be.

I’ll be over here dreaming.

(update: my friend Caroline sent me a very nice email with a link to a file that explains what one can do in just such a heart attack situation. It’s in German, but I know some of you speak/read German. Some of you want to understand German better. The rest of you? Well, if you’re coming here for English-language-only heart attack prevention, you’ve possibly made an error in judgement. Here it is:

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Don’t you feel better having learned all of that? Thank you Caroline. Incidentally, if you need an excellent massage and you’re anywhere near Munich, Caroline is quite a masseuse. Let me know, and I’ll put you in touch with her).

8 thoughts on “still his attacking heart

  1. I don’t know anything about your soccer, but I like to read you write about it, because you get SO EXCITED. It makes me laugh. Write your soccer stuff. (I refuse to call it football. I’m a Merkan.)

    “One of the most well-known traditional restaurants in the city centre had been the scene of rival fans throwing the litre glass beer mugs at one another.” Whoo! That’s both dangerous AND exciting. Those things are HEAVY. Yikes.

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    • They are heavy. And really dangerous. Somehow the person wielding one rarely takes that into account when he makes the decision to use a litre glass beer mugs as a weapon.

      I know many, if not most, of the readers of this blog could care less about sport. I try to take that into account when I choose topics.

      Also, I attempt to talk about wider issues in these cases. Using whatever sporting event as a starting place to eventually get to my bigger point. That you’re still reading through what might otherwise have bored you is really a compliment.

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      • You know I’d read you writing about anything. I’m not reading for the topic alone.

        My father has a VERY SERIOUS WARNING for you. He says, and I quote, “You tell that assassin he shouldn’t go to soccer games, because in Europe, people die at those ALL THE TIME, and he’ll go to one, and it will SEEM like everything’s going fine, but then he’ll find himself in a stampede and he’ll get trampled, and he won’t even have time to assassinate his way out of that crowd. Those stampedes come up out of NOWHERE. I saw it on the NEWS.”

        You’ve been warned.

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      • There’s so much about this comment to which I want to respond. I might need to ‘borrow’ one of the feature’s of your very funny blog, and have a conversation with your dad.

        You might say that I don’t know your dad. That may be true, but I’m sure I can create his side of the conversation based upon your detailed descriptions of your conversations.

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      • I can’t reply to your other comment for some reason so this might end up in a weird place. I have consulted with Dad, and he is fine with you addressing him on your blog. “Wait, that assassin doesn’t expect me to read it, does he?” he then said. “Because I don’t read internet things.”

        I told him he was under no obligation to read it, and if anything important came up I’d act as intermediary.

        You’re good to go.

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    • One of the only classes I didn’t do well in at university was German. The irony is not lost on me that I now make my home here and love the language and culture so much.

      You’ll be hearing much more about the Munich Times here. Hope even from so far away that my regular readers go there, too.

      Oh, and Lynette…many people I’ve met have very similar responses to the thought of a German final. Luckily in this case, it’s only got to do with football.

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      • I was in Munich in 2006, where my language skills were so completely eclipsed by my father-in-law’s that I was relegated to comic sidekick. I got a little tired of him laughing at me, so I didn’t resume using German until I got to Vienna, (the part of the trip he didn’t take with us.) Where, I might add, we did just fine, linguistically speaking. When I think of Munich, I think of the clock tower, beer halls and rain.

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