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The sports desk is trying. Sat at my day job watching South Africa vs France, with the cricket one dayer on the radio and live updates from Wimbledon on the computer, a Russian tourist just fixed me with a stare that could only be described as being sent by confused of Leningrad. We’ve not mentioned the draw for the DFB Pokal, or FC Union’s new players, and barely Hertha’s new manager and how he’s going to negotiate his way out of the second division. I’ve missed the roller derby and King Arthur Abraham’s super middleweight fight but it’s the World Cup. If my wife can wait, so can you.
All the bullshit swirling around the England camp seems to resemble the Bill Hicks Pigeon gag. There were reports of an unwanted irritant, carrying who knows what diseases, going around the camp saying “coup, coup”. Ha ha, eh? Still it could be worse. Could be French. The Gallic tour de farce knows no bounds since the potty mouthed storming out of Nicolas Anelka – whose brother was presumably around the corner whispering that Raymond Domenech had called their mum a rude word. In a nasty little twist, it seems likely that their failure will be blamed on the foreign influences within the squad and the fact that if they had a squad of pure-bred Stephan Guivarchs they’d have won the bloody thing already.
Similar things are happening in the English press, where Fabio Capello’s adherence to his very foreign-ness has caused the team to crash to the same results that Bobby Robson secured in 1990’s group stages before you know what. He was hounded by the tabloids and endured more innuendos than the German team of Stefan Kuntz and Karsten Janker, but he has since been given a place in the pantheon of great Englishmen that is rated on the Carlsberg scale of advertising time.
So is it the fault of the foreigner in charge? Miroslav Klose’s sending off against Serbia was treated by the press here as either a refereeing mistake (which have been given an enormous amount of attention on TV – the English aren’t the only specialists in European myopia) or his own fault, but none of them chose to say that it was because he’s just a Pole who doesn’t understand the way we do things around here. The Kaiser’s comments about the English returning to “kick and rush” football were thoroughly enjoyed, though just not taken as seriously by the English press. Everyone knows that Franz will just continue talking until the day he’s buried, and even then I would expect there to be, in parts of southern Bavaria, a voice whispering through the trees about how Bayern don’t deserve the treatment they get. In any case, he was wrong about the English, in that they don’t appear to have taken up the rush part. They are just playing kick.
Despite losing to Serbia, the German players seem firmly behind Jogi Löw. Not moping around, complaining about wanting to have a beer at press conferences, but relaxing and preparing. When Oliver Khan talks about how good it is that they have had some time to let their hair down – and not that they should be publicly flogged for it – then you know that the English have got it wrong. Had Capello ceded some ground and turned up at training the morning after the Algeria game with a case of Carlsberg, he’d have been strung up for not supporting an honest English beer.
The Kurier carried yesterday on its front page “We will win for Jögi” with quotes from Sami Khedira (“because he’s courageous and clever”) and Marcell Jansen, who says it’s “because he makes me proud”. Even the obligatory whinging about the Brazilian ref in charge of the Ghana match – described as “a crook, a scoundrel… just a shameless bastard” – has been muted, though that may just be so that they can take the moral high ground at the English tabloids complaining about having a German in charge of their game.
The German press are not to be held up as a paragon of virtue by any means. They are as casually racist, sexist and most other… ists as a matter of course, but they simply seem to have more of a handle on the expectations and fluctuations involved in a World Cup. Maybe because they actually do well in them sometimes. They also report that Prince Harry might move to Africa. Let’s hope it’s to Algeria, because we at least know he’s got a desert foxes uniform.
Wondering where to watch the games in Berlin? Check out our guide.