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FIFA world cup: Leidenschaft in Lebanon

BEIRUT | - June 18, 2014, 12h02 explores the reasons behind the staunch Lebanese support of Germany in the World Cup.
On my way to Café Em Nazih in Saifi Urban gardens on Monday to watch the world cup match between Germany and Portugal, I was already expecting a great atmosphere. Germany and Brazil are by far Lebanon’s two favourite teams and I knew Germany supporters would worked up about the first match of their adopted home team.

When I arrived the vuvuzelas were out, the German flags were swaying violently and practically everyone present was wearing some piece of Germany merchandise. Any Portugal supporters must have been in hiding. I had not anticipated this level of enthusiasm for a team with no obvious political or cultural ties to Lebanon.

Each time a goal was scored by Germany, (a regular occurrence during the 4-0 game), the crowd roared with triumph, as if it was their own team. It reminded me of when I was in Munich for the World Cup four years ago, although here the mode of celebration was a little different.

At half time, someone got out the Tabla, old men danced and a mini Bastian Schweinsteiger blew his horn to the music. It felt like a carnival. I was completely puzzled. Having attended matches each night since the World Cup started, I hadn’t experienced anything like this.

Now, Lebanese passion for Brazil, I can understand. The most successful team in world cup history, winning five times, Brazil, the home of football legends Pele and Ronaldo, is renowned for its football. In addition to this, the Lebanese diaspora in Brazil was sure to make the sporting bonds between these two countries tighter.

But why is Germany so popular? In Britain, where I’m from, Germans are thought of as efficient but serious people, German food as stodgy and the German language as (sorry!) harsh and ugly; nothing to spark any great passion. Of course, these are mere stereotypes, but isn’t that what world cup allegiance should be based on? That, and revenge.

My companions were equally baffled; some subtly suggesting it could have something to do with a certain German dictator who was around seventy years ago. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of to see swastikas in Lebanon and to find people who believe Hitler rendered a great service to humanity. In 2010, Germany’s foreign ministry made a complaint about the hanging of this flag in a village in Lebanon in support of Germany in the World Cup.

However, those who support Germany out of opposition to Israel are seriously misguided. Precisely because of its historic obligation to the victims of the holocaust, Germany could easily be called the most pro-Israel country in Europe. Chancellor Merkel has repeatedly stressed her support for the Jewish state declaring Israel’s security part of her country’s raison d’etre in a 2008 address to the Knesset.

Personally, I don’t believe the majority of support for Germany is linked to Nationalist Socialist policy, although it does perhaps have historical roots. One Lebanese man, I asked, remembered how Germany’s national football league, the Bundesliga used to be broadcast by TeleLiban every Saturday when he was a child in the seventies. Children who grew up watching the German players are now grown-up and with Lebanon consistently failing to make it into the tournament, this allegiance has laid deep roots and has been passed on to new generations.

Watching the match on Monday night, I can sort of understand why. Even as an English woman, whose team was knocked out of the 2010 World Cup by Germany, I couldn’t help but support these boys. Their unfaltering teamwork and the composure they maintain even in the face of foul play (and there was quite a lot of that on Monday night!) makes for a very noble game.

Perhaps I was the ignorant one. Why not support Germany? They play a hell of a game. All credit to the German team!
#FIFA, #FIFA_world_cup, #world_cup, #Football, #Germany
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