A reader writes:
I saw something real bizarre on the World Cup coverage of the English-German match on ESPN. The host talked about the English-German rivalry saying “Well after two world wars and many world cup battles…” WTF? Then the Brit-commentator next used “D-Day” as a metaphor to further comment on the rivalry. DOUBLE WTF? Then if that wasn’t freaky enough, German striker Jurgen Klinsman went on to speak (in broken English) that the German people are an “impatient people” especially after “being on the wrong side of two world wars,” and proceeded to talk about the German teams’ tendencies to attack and attack. TRIPLE WTF??!
Henry Porter chews over the war talk:
The very odd thing about modern Germany is that it appears to be almost entirely a mystery to the British, who are surprised to discover that the side fielded by Germany today hardly consists of the Aryan specimens on display at the Berlin Olympics. Men of Tunisian, Spanish, Bosnian, Polish and Brazilian ancestry form the German squad, together with the Turkish midfielder Mesut Ozil, who recites the Koran while the German national anthem is sung. To taunt players from the new Germany, freed since 2000 from the rigid nationality laws of 1913, with references to the Second World War is as weird as the stoning of dachshunds in Britain at the outset of the First World War. But the irrelevance of the jibes, and the taboo about mentioning the war, is precisely what makes it all so funny to the British, which I suppose says something about us.
Except it isn't funny when England loses to Germany.
Growing up, I was told of several key moments in British history: Trafalgar, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and the 1966 World Cup final. The tone got extra reverent when it came to 1966. Maybe when Americans realize that World Cup football is not about football, it's about nationalism, they'll like it better.