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  • Jacob Sweetman: German football’s cultures clash


Jacob Sweetman: German football’s cultures clash

As the revolution didn't come on May 1 in Kreuzberg, two other cultures were preparing to clash, on the pitch and in the hearts and minds of German football fans. Here in Berlin too. The Sportsdesk fails to explain much about either.

Outside the Estrel Hotel on Sonnenallee on Tuesday evening it looked like there was a coup in the making – just a pretty lazy one. Hundreds of policemen and women thronged around the entrance to the entrance of the monstrosity – so hideous in its angular glass-vastness that it makes the designs for the new Schloss look like they are a study in classy contemporary minimalism – apparently having been shipped in from all across the country to listlessly watch hundreds of thousands of people having glorious, uproarious fun in the sunshine of Kreuzberg on May 1.

Hell, they had to stay somewhere. They were smoking, milling around outside their temporary new home for the night, their tanks and water cannon all perfectly parked opposite in the shadow of the dubiously glowing neon statue of Leda being raped by Zeus in the form of a swan. Poor Leda. Some versions of the story involve her even laying two eggs which will bear the progeny of the top man at Mount Olympus. One should keep one’s head down when a God starts taking an interest in you (though this is just good advice and not intended as a Daily Mail-style rant about how she was “asking for it”).

Anyway, there’s a great metaphor in there somewhere about the abuse of power, but it’s still too early, and I may get even more sidetracked by it. This is, of course, a piece about the accession of two German football clubs to the Champions League Final for the first time, so that dirty bastard Zeus will have to wait. My point was merely supposed to be that the police were to have a much easier May Day than the journalists in the end – those poor, proper, journos who were sent out in packs by their rapacious editors, desperate for shots of black clad, black bloc hooligans, wreaking havoc and ringing the bells for impending revolution and a complete collapse of civilised society as we know it that didn’t really happen. Both sets of people would probably have been rather watching the football.

Obviously revolution wasn’t sparked off on or around Kottbusser Tor on Wednesday night, and if out of a couple of hundred thousand joyfully drunken revellers, alongside many thousand more joyfully serious protesters, a few tried to smash the window of a Sparkasse and a few more lobbed some stones at the fully armoured old bill, then I think capitalism will be able to rest easy on its laurels for another year. The powers that be will, in fact, be surely more worried about the determined peacefulness of it all, giving untold amounts more meaning to the messages being broadcast. It suits them as much as it does the tabloid editors if May 1 just turns into a mindless melee.

Many of the police would have been watching the astonishing, nail biting end to the Dortmund vs. Real Madrid second leg in their horrible hotel bar the night before, as a game that seemed to be petering out exploded into life as Sergio Ramos (a bastard of such mythical proportions he makes Zeus look like a reasonable bloke) bundled Madrid’s second goal through the crowd to make it 2-0 on the night. Then they will have celebrated at the final whistle as everybody else in the city seemed to as the seemingly annointed cool footballing vorbild, Jürgen Klopp, danced his granddad jig onto the pitch of the Bernebeu stadium.

Then, the following night, as they listlessly watched the peaceful merriment, most of them will have been aware in any case that Bayern Munich were serenely spanking seven shades of shit out of an idolised, but thoroughly broken, Barcelona to confirm that they will be meeting Dortmund in the Champions League Final at Wembley at the end of the month. Of course as a cynic (and who in Berlin isn’t?), I lazily presume that, as the tools of the establishment, the police are all Bayern fans. There is something in the way their senior officers stand at the back, pulling strings, smoking and puffing their ruddy cheeks out impassively, that reminds me of Uli Hoeness. And some of the older German Shepherds do look remarkably like Paul Breitner nowadays, too.

Jesus, this took a long time to get around to. Sorry. My point, as cackhanded as it may be, is that as the football world falls in love anew with two German club sides who have played with breathtaking style and a relentless, swaggering intent, the neutral football fans of Berlin will be dividing themselves on the day of the Final. There will be the Kloppite cognoscenti, with designer stubble and an idea of themselves being somehow a bit more anti-establishment opposite those who respect the irrepressible Bavarians as proponents of the most devastatingly effective (whilst still beautifully dashing – though that doesn’t really fit the stereotype) football known to man.

Naturally, come Wembley, there will be more of one than there will of the other, but they will all still be glorying in the fact that having picked up an unfair reputation as big tournament chokers, the European Cup (as it is so quaintly still referred to) will be won by a German team this year.

Of course this is all nonsense. The average policeman is no more of a knuckle-dragging, mindless apparatus of the state security system than Jürgen Klopp is at the vanguard of heralding in a new socialist renaissance where culture is more important than cash. But then this is why I am not a proper journalist. My editors would have been livid as I filed a piece, not about impending Marxist revolution, but a ramble about swan rape and bored police officers. Maybe after the Final my thoughts will be more a bit more coherent.