Thursday, 1 July 2010

Don't Mention the War

This post was originally drafted earlier in the week, but I didn't quite get around to finishing it. I had considered discarding it, as it is no longer really immediately topical, but in the end decided to go ahead anyway, as I am interested in other people's thoughts on this.

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There was apparently some kind of minor football match on Sunday.

England vs. Germany.

For various reasons we did not actually watch it, although under normal circumstances I would have done. In the end, I don't think I really missed much anyway. It sounds like a 3 hour drive across country listening to an audio CD of "Harry and the Dinosaurs" on a continuous loop was definitely a better way to spend the afternoon.

No matter what the score or the performance of the England team, I never relish these particular games. The so-called "grudge" match. The two enemies. Following the game, the usual comments were made on Twitter reminding people of "Two Wars and One World Cup".

Let's take a step back here. Aforementioned World Cup victory was over 40 years ago. Germany have won the World Cup twice since then (three times in total). They have been runners-up four times in total. I think maybe that trumps one win, and er... no second places. Frankly, crowing about 1966 is an embarrassment in this context (although please don't get me wrong, I am as pleased as anyone that England won the World Cup at least once, even if sadly it hasn't been in my lifetime). However, there's nothing wrong with a bit of friendly sporting rivalry - local teams do it to each other all the time. This isn't my main bone of contention.

What does make me uncomfortable, however, is the references to the Second World War that get trotted out every time the England Germany game takes place. Am I the only one that doesn't consider a war in which millions of people died horrible, gruesome deaths something to really be treated this lightly in association with football? It is, after all - believe it or not - only a game.

I grew up and went to school in Germany, and still have a lot of friends, and even family living there. I like to think I know a little bit more than the average man on the Clapham omnibus about Germany and the Germans. I think the main reaction amongst them to the way the English harp on about the war is a certain sadness. They don't really "get" it. The main reaction from a German is probably incomprehension. It's not because they want to - or can - forget it, however, for them it is not really a joking matter, and I personally feel the same way.

Finally, I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of Germans consider the fact that Hitler was defeated as a good thing. Rubbing in their faces the fact that "they lost" is therefore not actually that effective as taunts go...

Am I being overly sensitive on this subject? Should I just lighten up a bit, as it's no more than a harmless bit of fun?

Or is it time for us to just get over it?

P.S. - I even know some Germans who quite like Fawlty Towers - any excuse to add this one - totally excruciating.


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