Culture Shock: The 2014 FIFA World Cup as Experienced by an American Expat in Germany

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Photo by Alexandre Breveglieri — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/breveglieri/

Until this year, I had never, in all my life, watched a World Cup soccer match. Oh, I caught a few Bundesliga games last year, but they did little more than inform me the Bavarian team (FC Bayern München) is much like the Los Angeles Lakers; they have all the money — and therefore all the star players — and regularly put their foot so far up everyone’s ass they can taste the shoe laces. It comes as no surprise, therefore, the German national team is comprised largely of players from the Bavarian team (many of whom come from other German cities, states or even different countries entirely). What did come as a surprise — at least to me, an American with absolutely no interest in soccer or sports in general — was just how incredibly good they would be.

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Holy flying monkeyshit, these guys are circus freaks! They never stop running. (Their heart and lungs have clearly been replaced with top-secret BMW engine components, which run on jet fuel and processed uranium.) They’re fast too, constantly stealing the ball and passing between tight groups of opposing players. They’re also smart. They plan ahead, executing plays with all the unfeeling precision of a serial killer. And their goalie, Manuel Neuer? Nothing gets by him. Jesus Christ, that handsome homunculus is clearly the offspring of long-armed orangutans and a randy Chewbacca. Even the coach, Joachim Löw is a badass; he’s all business, and he’s a total fashion stud too — with his churched-up designer clothes and full head of raven-black hair. (Maybe it’s Mabelene?) But you know what struck me most about the Germans? They play as a team. Oh sure, they’ve got their high-scoring players — their superstars, like Thomas MüllerAndré Schürrle and Miroslav Klose — but I never got the feeling anyone was showboating. The German national team really worked together, with equal emphasis on both offense and defense; a trait which would prove vital during the World Cup games themselves.

Of all the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, my wife and I saw exactly 4 of them here in Hannover, Germany. These are my reactions and experiences:

June 26, 2014: USA vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Shit, I don’t know who to root for!”
Experience: My wife and I sat inside a chain restaurant called Maredo on Georgstraße, in the back room, directly in front of a flatscreen TV with a shaky video stream. (It lost its cable connection enough times we shan’t be returning. Amateurs.) Anyway, I don’t think anyone behind us could see around my gigantic, baseball-capped skull, but you know what? Fuck ’em. This was the first World Cup match I’d ever seen. I deserved the pole position.

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So after beating Ghana, who took us out of the last World Cup, the US faced one of the best teams in the world: Germany. I knew Germany was going to beat us, but I was surprised by how well we did against them. The final score was only 0-1 — far from the red-assed spanking I expected. I was proud of our team and simultaneously impressed by the German team. I really had no idea who to cheer for. I had my native country on the one hand, and my new home country on the other… and a visibly inebriated gang of German fans behind me. What was I to do? With absolutely no guidance from my wife, I opted to cheer for both. I must have looked like the world’s most confused soccer fan ever. “Nice save, USA! Yeah! Oooo, Germany is kicking ass! Good job, boys! Ain’t no shame in losing, America! Go Germany! Go USA! Hooraaaaay!” *Followed by awkward hand clapping, double fist pumps in the air and a few violent Tourette’s syndrome tics.*

July 4, 2014: France vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Heh heh, the French guys look like roman candles.”
Experience: For this game, The Wife and I sat in a café called Finesse in Bothfeld. The place was packed, and the only available seats were at the bar. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we were the only people to receive immediate beverage service. (Everyone else had to wait for a very overwhelmed, very meltdown-primed waitress to come around.)

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Image collage featuring photos by Epic Fireworks — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicfireworks/

It was a good game, with both sides displaying fantastic athleticism. But the only thing I can really remember about it was the French team jerseys. They wore dark blue shirts and shorts, with knee-high red socks and fluorescent green/yellow cleats. I was reminded of roman candle fireworks — you know, the ones we shot at each other on the 4th of July while our mother’s weren’t looking? I was mesmerized by those jerseys, even managing to overlook all the diving going on. Seriously, “diving,” or “flopping” is one of the primary reasons Americans have been so slow to embrace soccer. It disgusts us to see grown men flailing around on the ground, grabbing their ankles like they’ve got a compound fracture, only to see them stand up a few seconds later and play the rest of the game like nothing happened. No, no… we expect to see our athletes win games with blood flowing from their ears and vertebrae sticking out of their backs like dinosaur spines. Anything less and you’re a pussy.

July 8, 2014: Brazil vs. Germany

Score: 1-7 (Germany)
Reaction: “What in the sweet holy fuck is going on?!”
Experience: The Wife and I watched this game from home. We grabbed a couple of brew doggs from the basement, flipped on the tube and watched the madness unfold. My wife tried to correct a few term papers at the same time, but I knew right from the start that was a pipe dream. Also, I dropped one of said brew doggs on the staircase coming up from the basement, so I had to deal with that before I could watch the game. (And our basement still smells like a brewery.)

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Finally the whistle blew and Brazil came out like a swarm of pissed-off yellow jackets. Jesus Christ, they were so balls-out, I thought surely their intensity alone would win them the game. I mean, Brazil is supposed to be the best in the world, right? Some guy named “Pelé” played real good for them, or so I’ve heard. And they had the home-field advantage. But of course, Brazil lost their star player, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, when a Columbian player named Juan Camilo Zúñiga delivered a flying knee kick straight into his spine. Brazil also lost their star defender, Thiago Silva, after he earned his second yellow card in the game versus Columbia. But all the frenzied intensity in the world could not make up for these losses — or prepare them for the icy power of the German national team.

While the Brazilians sprinted around the field like a bunch of headless chickens, Germany played it cool; they matched Brazil’s speed and dexterity, but their demeanor was freakishly calm, like they’d done this all before. “Yes, yes, this is a very important game, we know, but we still have the final to win. No sense in getting all emotional.” Man, when Germany scored in the first couple of minutes, I thought, “Oh, maybe Germany can deal with these psychos.” And then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, within the span of 15 minutes, Germany racked up the score 5-0. My wife and I could not believe it. Our thoughts — in sequence — were:

  1. Something is wrong.
  2. Someone bribed the Brazilian goalie.
  3. All of the referees are on the take.
  4. The Germans are on steroids.
  5. Everyone will blame Brazil’s missing star players.
  6. The citizens of Brazil are going to murder the entire German national team.
  7. For the love of God, Germany, if you value your lives, stop running up the score!
  8. Oh God, everyone is crying…

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Thankfully, Brazil scored a dignity-saving point, leaving the final score 1-7. Still, I could not believe what I had just seen. Even if the final match between Argentina and Germany proves to be amazing, people will be talking about the bizarre 2014 World Cup match between Brazil and Germany for the rest of their lives.

July 13, 2014: Argentina vs. Germany – FINAL MATCH

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Ole, ole, ole-ole-ole… SUPER DEUTSCHLAND!”
Experience: We watched this final championship game at the Leibniz Universität Unikino with a big group of our friends and enough concealed beer to kill a rhino. I was so nervous I wanted to hurl.

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The game was fantastic. Both teams were perfectly matched, which made for some real nail-biting moments — especially with that disqualified goal by Argentina. I wasn’t convinced Germany would win, but it did seem like most of the game took place on the Argentina side of the field. That was a good sign. And then BOOM! Mario Götze bounced a pass directly off his thunderous heart and booted it past the Argentinian goalie. Hot potato! And then the rest of the game played out, both sides fighting for the victory, but it was Germany who proved the better team. They won the World Cup and took home that hideous trophy. (Seriously, that thing looks like disembodied souls being crushed by the sun.)

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Photo by Charles Kerr — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/ckerr/

Here are some pictures from the game. Click one to start the slideshow.

And here is a video I recorded, which summarizes the whole experience — from the game, to the win, to the aftermath with drunken German fans singing (very loudly) in the subway station.

 

Thank you for reading our blog, and we hope you enjoyed the World Cup!

 


 

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34 thoughts

  1. As a life long soccer fan, and a looooooooooooong time German fan, watching them win the Cup last night was fantastic. In addition, watching them throughout the whole tournament was a great treat and sometimes nerve wrecking. But it all paid off. I was one of the lucky ones in 2010 who got to be in Germany during the world cup, and yeah – totally different than my home experience in the US. People actually cared about the games, regardless of who was playing, they cared. Of course, when Germany was playing everything was at a standstill. Great to see how things changed over the games for you – and yeah, this blog like many others had be laughing my ass off. Thanks!! I really needed that.

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  2. I watched all those games, too, and agree with your comments. I was rooting for Argentina, I must admit. When we watched Brazil play for third place (another disaster for them), a Brazilian friend was with us and analyzed every play. Her father was a soccer player in Brazil, so she knows all the moves. She was a little disappointed when they lost, but more or less expected it. Germany plays almost like robots.

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  3. Nice to read a newbie’s view. I’d like to point out that not all national team players that usually play _for_ Bayern München (“Bavaria Munich”) are actually _from_ Bavaria. Neuer: North Rhine.Westphalia, Götze: born in a Swabaian town within Bavaria, but moved away aged 6 to North Rhine-Westphalia and only recently moved to Munich; Boateng: Berlin, Kroos: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Müller, Lahm and Schweinsteiger are “real” Bavarians, however.

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  4. I too expected the US to get absolutely owned by Germany :)
    Yes, it is totally teamwork that wins the games. Back in my high school freshman year, I was on the varsity basketball team. We were all new players, never played with each other before. The first month or so of games we did badly, but once we figured ourselves out we quickly became one of the best teams in the league :)
    (sorry if I bored you with my story!)

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  5. Holy crap I love your posts!
    Last night, my German husband showed me a picture of the World Cup trophy and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?!” Without even thinking I replied, “Dude. It’s like the ugliest trophy I’ve ever seen. But good for Germany!” I’ve never watched a single soccer game in my life until the tournament began and I found it quite exciting. And while trying to be as unbiased as possible, I too think Germany was the best and most deserving team. They were fantastic.

    Thanks for the laughs.

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  6. This is my second World Cup in Deutschland. The way the country rallies behind the their team is amazing. I enjoy the energy, I watch almost every match, I love public viewing…and now I’m going to be bored and have nothing to talk about for weeks. Even now I’m going through withdrawls, should I check my twitter feed to see if Özil posted any more pics with Rihanon and the cup?

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  7. So, I’m engaged to a German who doesn’t care about football. But it’s football. And I’ll be moving to Germany. You can see where this is going.

    And oddly enough, I’m not very sporty but I watched it for my job. Thought I was watching the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals again. I noticed the same ‘this time is a beast-mode unit’ thing since it was the first game I watched.

    Even being East Coast based, so the times didn’t usually suck. (I’m still on CE time, what can I say? When your guy lives far, far away, you get used to weird viewing times. Please see any global Doctor Who episode.)

    But I found it really interesting to watch the sport I don’t understand and follow various German Twitters. The excitement was amazing. The ABC panel a) made me wish they had the Olympic games cover and b) choke up a bit watching former ballers on panel. You could see the excitement.

    And DW’s live-blogging tickled me since I was final able to understand why people responded in the stands. I was so excited for the German team Ducking themselves out. All I needed was a V. When this happens in 2018, I’ll be somewhere in Germany (depending on job) and I can’t wait to view with a bunch of locals.

    I told him that I’ll just leave him at home. Watching Bay’s Transformers. Pretty sure he’ll figure out how to fake interest just so can escape that fate and watch me look around in confusion until he translates.

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  8. “Holy flying monkeyshit, these guys are circus freaks! They never stop running. (Their heart and lungs have clearly been replaced with top-secret BMW engine components, which run on jet fuel and processed uranium.” – One of the best reads ever. Brilliantly well done.

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  9. I felt world-shattering sadness in Italy when Roberto Baggio bounced his free kick off the goalpost against Brazil. I experienced insanity in the streets in Romania when they won a quarter-final (a quarter final!). I’ve even seen the madness in San Francisco when the 49ers won the Superbowl for the second year in a row. But I have never been in a country when the World Cup was won. This must have been a hypersensory experience.

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  10. We were stationed in Germany during the World Cup Italia in 1990, and watching the video you posted made me tear up! It brought back some amazing memories of that World Cup win! I spent 9 years total of my childhood growing up in Germany, and when it comes to fußbol, I will always cheer for Die Mannschaft even though I’m American through and through!

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  11. Even though I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, I was taken to soccer matches @ Pratt Institute (Where my Dad and his partner in crime, Belfast born J.J. McClarnon taught). Shep Messing, who was the goalkeeper for the New York Cosmos in my misspent youth was a Pratt grad. My junior high coach was a refugee from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. I was a midfielder once. Now I live in Arizona, and my work buddy Anastase (who is from Rwanda) discuss soccer all the time. Germany has the largest number of people playing soccer of any nation in the world and the best training. Brazil has terrible training, ask Pele. If Brazil had Germany’s training regimen. I am a fan of American coach Jurgen Klinsmann. I grew up watching Franz Beckenbauer. Funny story about that. Beckenbauer lived near the stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey. At first, he had trouble getting pizza delivered. When the local pizza joints went to take the name and he told them, he got the standard New York area “Yeah, right, and I’m Jimmy Carter!”: :) I rooted for Germany in the World Cup. More German than Argentine friends and I am Eurocentered LOL!

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  12. That was the funniest summary I’ve ever read and seen of a World Cup!
    My prediction: You’ll become a real soccer addicted after you watched a game in the stadium.
    The strategies of both teams are wonderful to follow in a stadium, much better than on TV.
    Doesn’t have to be the “Fankurve”…some people don’t like to put their clothes into danger (burning).

    The US-team improved seriously the recent years and the improvement started before Klinsmann was their trainer. Will be interesting to see next World Cup…an opponent we had to take in account already this year. In four years…Mmmmm….perhaps you can stop to worry for whom you root…Hahaha.

    Now my favourite kicker in his famous interview….gladly he didn’t kick the ass of the reporter. ☺
    Per Mertesacker is born in Hannover and grew up in Niedersachsen…and he was just here in Berlin for his great World Cup party. He..hem…they deserved it and in the interview he was right also. After a fight for more than 2 hours (extension and overtime) the german team won.
    Mertesacker was one of the best and the reporter didn’t have anything better to do than asking critical questions.

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  13. Reblogged this on Das M & M Blog and commented:
    Ein US-Amerikaner, der seine ersten vier Spiele der deutschen Nationalmannschaft gesehen hat. Meine Güte – er wird in seinem weiteren Leben sehr viele Enttäuschungen hinnehmen müssen. Aber dieser Bericht hat 11Freude-Niveau ;) Kleiner Auszug: “I thought, “Oh, maybe Germany can deal with these psychos.” And then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, …”

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  14. Hahahaha as usual I love your way of writing! I was kinda waiting for you to post something about the world cup, especially about the USA-Germany match! But I love how you summarized your entire world cup experience in one post! I’ve been a German fan for many years and absolutely love and cheer for this team, was so thrilled when they won and was also biting my nails throughout the whole game! Thanks for the video, it’s great to see the happy crowd in Germany! I live in Lebanon, but when Germany won the world cup, you could swear you were in Germany instead as everyone celebrated in the streets with the German flag! Cheers!

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  15. Excellent synopsis! Your description of the U.S. game vs Germany captured how I felt as well. Who to root for?!? And interestingly, the game against France was played on the 4th of July, so the roman candle analogy is fitting, for us Americans anyway ;) Thanks for the great post!

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  16. Yeah, I am not a football fan either but for the world cup I make an exception. I was flying a German flag all through the tournament. Well, mostly the little monsters waved it around when they could get their hands on it and now it is all tattered and filthy. But what a tournament!

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  17. I am a fan of your posts,I read as frequently as I can but hardly comment . Come to think of it I don’t think I have ever left a comment here,but I will today. Its a good thing you watched the World Cup and enjoyed it. Football(or soccer as Americans call it) is a wonderful game. But seriously,how can you say or think the world cup trophy is Hideous?!?! Am so shocked right now.

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  18. I love your blog post even though I’m not the biggest soccer fan on Earth, finding it quite boring actually. *sigh*

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      1. Hell yeah it was! But the after party on the streets was a little traumatizing for me, ended up seeing naked men patting their asses on the top of their cars! (happened at Steintor)!

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