Summer Blog Post Fourteen
Remembering summer events from 1974 to 2014; football 2014 continued
Summer Blog Post Fourteen
Summer Blog Post Fourteen
Dear readers of my blog,
summer time being football tournament time on several continents, I had reason to write my impressions both in 2010, 2014 and last year, in 2018, and this year I also recall what happened forty-five years ago, since the calendar is the same as in 1974, and suddenly the idea arose to think of the past in periods of five years.
In 1974, at age twelve,I watched my first World Cup taking place in Germany, and the day after the final in Munich we did a one-day-class trip to the Overseas Museum at Bremen when all the twelve-year-old children of 6e were packed in one carriage with four seats on each side of the narrow aisle, the boys all wearing shorts. While I fail to recall anything we may have said about the World Cup, I have always remembered the location of the museum just outside Bremen Main Station. Later in the summer, I would travel to Britain for the first time, taking the boat at Calais and becoming very seasick on the voyage out.
In 1979, forty years ago, I started interpreting when a French group from Palaiseau, a town in the vicinity of Paris then ruled by the Communist Party, visited Unna in Westphalia and I was asked to take the group around. I clearly remember having talked to a man exactly the age of my father and feeling very proud to be able to discuss history and politics with him in French.
Later, in June/July the same year, I spent six weeks in France, two days in Paris to begin with, where I could have talked to Poilus standing at the Arc de Triomphe wearing their veterans’ uniforms and decorations but I failed to make a connection between them and my two grandfathers whose service on the Western Front from 1914-1918 I knew nothing about when aged seventeen.
In 1984, on another, shorter visit to Épinal, Vosges, I almost missed my connection in Strasbourg, since I had lost my bearings in the labyrinth of the old town I believed to know from a visit the year before. It was still the period when I preferred playing the double-bass in a Münster student orchestra to attending the only James Joyce Symposium ever to have been held in a German city. I did not know then that the edition of Ulysses presented there would somehow one day become shape of my own academic work.
In 1989, I last shared a family holiday with my parents in North Yorkshire. It was the year of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, and I keenly took in everything about the parade in Paris on 14th July, the death of conductor Herbert von Karajan, but what impressed me most was the fact that I realized the importance of being Irish in the late 18th century when I understood from a BBC documentary that there had been a rebellion in 1798 and almost a French invasion to support the United Irishmen. The summer of 1989 was also the aftermath of the local elections in GDR that had been doctored, of the massacre in Bejing and the beginning of the opening of the Iron Curtain in Hungary.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1994, I was involved in organizing the symposium celebrating the centenary of Aldous Huxley at Münster University, unaware at the time that both my grandfathers were born about five months later in the same year. Unlike the writer, they both fought in the First World War. Also unlike him, they never spoke about that experience, not even in the family circle, let alone published their opinions on it.
The most memorable experience of that summer of 1994, though, was the first performance of Aldous Huxley’s then unpublished play “Now More Than Ever” which I had also helped to organize and propagate in the local press. One review linked Huxley and Oscar Wilde – a remark I could only appreciate when I recently unearthed the article in my private archives. At the time, my experience of having read most of Wilde in the spring of 1989 lay some time in the past, and my situation was not that I could link my own appreciation of Wilde’s comedies with the critic’s view of Huxley’s play centring on the crisis following Black Friday 1929.
Interestingly, my own paternal grandfather would have had his own views on that event but as it happens he died long before I was old enough to question him about the turning-point in his professional and family life. A skilled craftsman before, owning his own workshop as the knife-grinder, he had to go to school again before becoming a primary school teacher two years later. All this has come to mind recently when I saw that two men then also involved in the Aldous Huxley Symposium have just published the first-ever full biography in German which I am going to review in this blog soon.
Twenty years ago, aged thirty-seven, I organized a conference at Münster to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Ford Madox Ford’s death at Deauville on 26th June 1939. Held in the historical Town Hall, at Hof Hesselmann Mecklenbeck, and in the Centre for Dutch Studies (Zentrum für Niederlandestudien) next to Lamberti Church in the city centre, the conference attracted speakers from Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the USA as well as Germany. The finishing flourish was a visit of Telgte, a town in the environs, which Ford had also visited and written about. His father, Franz Hüffer, had been born in Münster, and until 1911 Ford himself and his family had regularly paid his relatives whose descendants still run a paper plus a publishing-house in the city a visit. I was a free-lance translator and biographer at the time and hoped to win a contract to translate Parade’s End into German for the first time. I am going to link the novel and Oscar Wilde’s essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” in another blog soon since both writers seem to have uncannily analyzed the situation in the UK in a way that still applies today.
Fifteen years ago, in 2004, I had just finished teacher’s training in East Frisia when my biography of James Joyce appeared in May. In June, I did several readings and performances in Franconia and the Upper Palatinate, giving a radio interview in Cologne on the 15th June which was then broadcast to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the historical Bloomsday before I did a performance on Ford Madox Ford in a catholic Münster institution on the 65th anniversary of his death. Collaborating with a literary friend from Münster, I was happy to talk to another Münster collateral descendant of Ford’s, finding that no matter how little the German side of this large family was known, it would be worth one’s while to do a complete book on Ford’s involvement with things German one day. It has not yet materialized, I am afraid to say.
In 2009, ten years ago, I did a singular trip to Paris, accompanied by two artists, an American lady and the Münster-born Jochen Stücke to attend the finissage of his exhibition held in a gallery and to take all his works back to Germany in my car. At the finissage, a French teacher of German from Évreux whom I had met in an exchange with East Frisia some years before and I read from Edgar Allan Poe’s tale A Descent into the Maelström accompanied by woodcuts made by Jochen Stücke published the same year to coincide with the bicentenary of the American writer. In the same summer, I changed schools and did a trip to Treves and Luxembourg where I met the late Nic Klecker (1928-2009), a teacher and poet I had first encountered in Ireland in 1996. Later that year, in early September I started to revisit Marseilles where I had first been in late July 1979, not only seeing the late Yves Broussard (1937-2018), whom I had also first encountered at the same poetry festival in Ireland in 1996, but also beginning my association with ARES, a French study group focusing on the Shoah.
And, finally, it was in 2014 when I began to write my World Cup Journal that I had become regularly involved with the Relais de la Mémoire Group based in Vanves near Paris owing to an exchange with schools from France, England, Poland, Austria. Having brought up to date my story in terms of literature, history, and football, you can perhaps follow the subsequent chapters at greater ease.
Leer, 23rd June 2019
On this early morning of the first semi-final which Germany has to play at Belo Horizonte facing the formidable home crowd as well as an aggressive Seleção, I try to recall which sides they had beaten in the past: so far Germany has never before faced a South American side in the semi-final, while they played South Korea in 2002 and ten countries from Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe. This means that winning today would be a first in many respects.
In my predictions, I’m on the safe side if I go against the odds but a German victory would also be such a relief in that a deadlock would be broken at last, a promise given 24 years ago on the same day in Rome when they last won the World Cup that one day the team in white shirts and black shorts would be back.
Tuesday, 8th July 20014, on the train to Norden
Night has invaded tropical Brazil, while daylight will take several hours before it will break in temperate Germany, but an incredible match has turned the world of football as dreamed by 200 million Brazilians on its head. Beating the hosts by seven goals to one, the German side not only won by the highest margin ever reached in a semi-final, the record of six goals to one having been shared by Germany with Argentina and Uruguay since 1954, they also became the first-ever European team to beat a South American team in a knock-out match on their own continent and, by the by, also the first German team to defeat Brazil at home as well as in an official competition.
The only player to have been involved in the 2002 final and today, Miroslav Klose, prepared Müller’s one nil by distracting David Luiz and scored the second goal himself on the rebound after Müller had confused the two central defenders by one of his surprising runs against the grain. In fact, as only the bird’s eye view reveals, Müller had kept the ball to the moment when Klose was close enough to him to take it over for his first shot. Then after Cesar’s save he simply ran on to hit home in his second attempt with Kroos waiting close behind for a possible third try.
Then the “team implosion” could be observed on the part of the Brazilians, as Oliver Kahn, TV expert and goalkeeper of the 2002 runners-up side, was wont to term the collapse of any cohesion in the Seleção as opposed to what he called the “emotional explosion” that had characterized most Brazilian games during this home World Cup.
Norden, Westermarsch, Wednesday, 9th July 2014
Waking up at four o’clock when the rain predicted for this night is general over the marshland of this North-westerly part of East Frisia, I need to jot down some impressions of an extremely astonishing 18 minutes in the first half when the German team coolly and calmly profited first from minimal spaces within the penalty area, then from enormous spaces both in- and outside the area to execute a series of deadly passes allowing Kroos to score twice, one being a volley with his left foot, the other being a right-footed shot, before it was Khedira who made it five nil. Seen from above, their attacking formation impressively disentangled any cohesion Brazil’s defensive formation might have had in the very centre.
It all looked like a combination of Bayern Munich vs. Barça in 2013 and Real Madrid vs. Bayern in 2014, with Löw’s Germans taking advantage of the fact that so many players had been through both experiences plus those memorable eight-goal qualifiers against Sweden in 2012 and 2013. My colleague, unlike the TV reporter, also pointed this out, adding quickly once it was Brazil nil Germany five that he deemed the game over and done with. He was, of course, right.
Even the news flash in the half-time break features reactions on behalf of the Brazilian spectators who started leaving the ground in the interval and whose Brazil! Brazil! shouts had almost ebbed away after the half hour mark. On watching the Confederations Cup last year, I had thought set-pieces would be most important and hoped for Löw to allow his team to practise them a lot, which he’d always claimed not to have any time for. Today it was only one situation that was needed to get the match going, while against Portugal they had snatched two goals from such moments, with Klose scoring his record-breaking goal after a corner against Ghana and Hummels his second against France following a free kick.
Norden, Westermarsch, Wednesday, 9th July 2014
It’s still early morning when I open my notebook once more to jot down that until about ten minutes or so into the match I couldn’t make out what it was going to be like, say, a game of Germany vs. England rather than what I had imagined Brazil vs. Germany to be. I think I even stated I needed to forget anything about the recent win by three goals to two over Brazil at Stuttgart. Both the story and the result, however, had a lot to do with Germany winning the Euro semi-final at the old Wembley stadium in June 1996 – on penalties, that is – and Italy beating Germany at Dortmund by two goals scored in the 119th and 120th minute, evoked by Löw in an after-match interview, exactly ten years later. I had hoped they would be strong enough to face the crowd as well as the Seleção in a match as tight as those other two games had been.
Norden, Westermarsch, Wednesday, 9th July 2014, 6.45 a.m.
The aftermath of Tuesday’s memorable semi-final could be felt in the teacher’s room as well as in the eight o’clock English class. There was something like overriding tiredness about everyone, and it took hours before the colleagues started joking about who had rightly predicted the result. Like many others, I could claim to have foreseen the one goal scored by Brazil and Germany’s win. Five, however, had believed in the hosts’ success story going on. In fact, on having watched the first half-hour once again, I noticed it was in the first ten minutes already that despite furious runs down the right and left wings by the Brazilians the German team easily bridged open spaces in midfield, and but for lucky interventions in the area they might have scored even then. Marcelo, whom Lahm tackled successfully, like David Luiz was apparently Brazil’s playmaker up front, so when Khedira and Müller turned up on the right edge of the area after a superbly quick run in which they supported each other their cross could only be deflected for a corner. Kroos took it and, commenting the bird’s eye view, the reporter asked where Hummels was roaming. The ball came in, went past the tall defenders placed at the first post before finding Thomas Müller who hit home volley with his right foot. Neither Marcelo on the line, nor Cesar who saw the ball hit the ground when he dived for it, had a chance to save it. Confused by the referee and his assistants, both the reporter and the players believed it had been disallowed, but that was only for a moment.
On the twenty minutes’ mark, there was praise given for the tactical achievement of the German side whose players seemed to be stronger in number in almost every single scene, so that Müller/Khedira, Kroos/Khedira or Müller/Klose moving close to each other in and about the area continued to wreak real havoc in the Brazilian defence. After Klose had completed a promising attack with a weak left-footed shot, which had hurt him somewhat, the close-up showing his face for a brief moment, the ball was recaptured in midfield, passed out right from where Kroos was found in the centre, almost stumbling, placed thirty yards out in the centre with Klose/Müller moving across the area before him. Kroos first finds Müller who then leaves the ball for Klose coming from the left. Cesar saves his shot superbly but on the rebound the ever agile Klose scores his 16th goal in 22 World Cup appearances.
My friend in Madrid claims me as his witness that he has always supported Germany at the World Cup, describing himself as unspeakably happy. In fact, he had responded only lukewarmly when I congratulated him on Spain winning the World Cup four years ago. And I remember having watched a single World Cup game with him twenty years ago when Spain led South Korea by two goals to nil before conceding two goals in the closing minutes. He was jubilant when South Korea equalized. This did surprise me then though I had known early on that the Spanish Selección never inspired the same enthusiasm let alone patriotism either Real or Barça did on the part of their respective fans. And let me add this five years later, this was a game watched on the first day of a World Cup which for its being held in the USA I meant to and did in actual fact boycott almost completely. Never did I watch so few games either before or since.
Thursday, 10th July 2014, on the train to Norden
On reconstructing those chains of events from the 2014 semi-final in my mind’s eye, I cannot but recall similar scenes in the match of France vs. Germany. Last Friday, however, there was always a defender’s leg that had prevented either Klose or Müller from breaking through towards goal.
What the reporter had said after twenty minutes about the first goal having produced a lasting effect on the psyche of the hosts’ team cannot but be confirmed after the second since it took only two minutes until Khedira snatched a loose ball, walked past one or two defenders, finding someone on the right whose pass into the area finds Kroos on the left whose volley leaves Cesar no chance. While spectators in- and outside the ground could not believe their eyes, a look into the faces of the Seleção clearly conveyed the impression that they knew already what was in the offing: David Luiz, Oscar, famous players, visibly at their wits’ ends. When it was Brazil nil Germany five, seven minutes after the second goal, I only wished for half-time to come quickly. It was too much even by the standards of a team that had gone through the four all draw against Sweden in 2012 and the five three in Sweden a year later.
Recalling the evening, some people said they had fallen asleep before the TV set earlier in the evening before awaking to watch the match. When they woke again in the morning, they couldn’t believe the result and had to wait for confirmation of the newspaper headline by the radio news before they eventually came round to thinking they had actually seen this happen. Others remembered having looked at the screen only when their partner, actually watching the match, shouted Goal! Another had gone off to take a shower at Brazil nil Germany three, switching on the radio, and finding himself slightly taken aback by the announcement of the speaker that nobody having come in late should be surprised, for it was Brazil nil Germany five. This was the usual phrase at the time when no mobile media were around and everyone on his or her way home had no opportunity to follow live television or radio – unless he or she was driving his or her own car.
In my afternoon class of six-form students, none had missed the match while at eight o’clock one student asked me whether I had participated in the car parade at night celebrating the victory. Of course, I had not. He proudly stated he had. When I recounted that episode, someone said hopefully the lad hadn’t driven himself. An arts teacher at lunch only said that he was annoyed that they had won since it would mean all this noise would go on till Sunday. Questioned, he admitted it was not the football as such which was unnerving him it was the comments of beer-drinking, pot-bellied bystanders he had been faced with since childhood for he had been living all his life next to the local football ground where such people abounded.
Retailing this anecdote on the train, a lady knitting a sock smiled and said this person shouldn’t say this aloud. He might be accused of being unpatriotic. I refrained from commenting for I can understand and accept both positions, having lived through situations and times that weren’t propitious for football fans as well as those where anybody who didn’t support the right side was considered an alien or worse.
Thursday, 10th July 2014, late afternoon after having typed up the pen(cil) jottings of the last few days
Away from home for the night of Tuesday/Wednesday, I didn’t read the World Cup extra of the local paper for two days, so I had to browse in the articles about East Frisian fans who had already returned from Brazil, having watched the Germany vs. Portugal match and, above all, Ronaldo’s lazy legs in that game. This remark triggered a whole train of thought since if you sit in the ground you follow your own camera eyes, concentrating, for example, on one particular player to see whom you had come six thousand kilometres across the Atlantic. In their case, they already knew who they could look out for because it was the opening match of group G, while if you pay for a final ticket in advance you never know beforehand who you are going to see. This time, it’ll be Lionel Messi whose Albiceleste qualified yesterday by a four goals to two after penalties over the Elftal.
Reactions in the world media were overwhelming after Tuesday’s first semi-final, many headlines containing the noun “humiliation” or the participle “humiliated”, while the articles themselves also referred to the “humility” that could be observed in the gestures German players showed when trying to console their Brazilian adversaries. There was no triumphalism visible either on the ground or in after-match statements.
Kroos simply said: “You have never won the World Cup in the semi-final.” Reading about the destruction of a myth, I also think this is another instance of media hype, just like the idea that this defeat at Belo Horizonte will one day be called Mineirazo, the disaster of the stadium where the game took place, following the historical debacle at Maracanã in July 1950, called Maracanazo, when favourites Brazil lost the final match of their first home World Cup to outsiders Uruguay by one goal to two after they had already been one goal up and merely needed a draw to win their first trophy.
Five stars acquired since then haven’t been able to extinguish that traumatic experience. The England Captain Stephen Gerard twittered: “Brazil has Neymar. Argentina has Messi. Portugal has Ronaldo. Germany has a team!” And on Sunday, it’s going to be Argentina vs. Germany, the third final contested by these two sides since 1986, the first one in South America after one each played in Central America and in Europe.
It is in Spain that they use the word “massacre” as if this game of football had been a battle in a war. Certainly, it was visible world-wide how “incredible”, “incroyable” in French, this match had been. Pelé couldn’t but voice his surprise, while Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp said he had been both enthusiastic and shocked about such a result in a World Cup semi-final.
A Spanish sporting daily admitted that words could not express everything shown by the game itself: “Brazil is in tears, while the world is laughing. Klose writes himself into the book of history.”
While a young colleague who recalls having watched the final in 1990 with all emotions welling up after the converted penalty says he thought himself quite courageous for having predicted a win by three goals to one for Germany, there are in fact four British betters who had gone for seven goals to one, earning 5,000 quid when the odds were 1000:1. They were not alone but joined by two Brazilians who also deemed their own team liable to go down spectacularly.
Their home World Cup hadn’t been spectacular before that. All in all, they have scored eleven goals so far in six games, and they have also conceded eleven goals now, winning three and drawing two matches. It ought to be recalled that Chile needed a single technical infelicity on the part of Hulk to equalize in a first half when they hardly ever reached the Brazilian penalty area before. Besides, they never hesitated to foul their adversaries, something that didn’t happen in the semi-final, even though Khedira was once observed as looking over his shoulder as if to check whether someone sought to tackle him ruthlessly from behind. This may still be an automatism of his, “thanks” to his injury suffered at the “hands” of Andrea Pirlo in that November test match vs. Italy.
Thursday, 10th July 2014, at 9 p.m.
As a kind of afterthought, I watched the highlights and later also the penalty shoot-out of The Netherlands vs. Argentina which proved to be dramatic in that, as van Gaal revealed, two players had refused to take the first penalty kick. So Vlaar, according to the reporter the best Dutch defender that day, had to step in. Sergio Romero had no trouble saving this shot. Thus Messi in converting his penalty put Argentina ahead. From the highlights, one could not infer that the Dutch missed the first and third, while Robben and Kuyt drily converted the second and fourth penalty. Cillessen, however, was unlucky not to save any, so that Argentina had booked the final after only four kicks. The Dutch keeper, like his sub, Tim Krul, in the quarter-finals tried to distract his adversaries by talking psycho to them but here the referee intervened at once. As opposed to the previous match, van Persie had had to be substituted earlier, he was simply too weak, so that one of the most experienced hands for the shoot-out was no longer on the pitch. Sneijder who had aimed for the top left-hand corner, finding only Romero’s fist, tersely commented afterwards that if you refuse to take one you can’t be blamed for having missed.
Like Costa Rica, the basically very young Dutch team leave the competition unbeaten with four successive wins and two goalless draws in the knock-out stage. There is hope for the future, if not for all members of the squad, some of whom may have played their last World Cup. And if they manage to face Saturday’s game vs. Brazil with some kind of seriousness, they may well have a happy ending. Even though both Coach van Gaal and some of his players complain about the match for third place they should think of their future. As yet, the Dutch have reached the last four five times: in 1974, 1978, 1998, 2010, and 2014. So far, they haven’t won a single of those final matches. They should start doing so now.
As for the grand final, preparations have started in the German base at Campo di Bahía which they will leave on Friday. I think it is going to be a totally different game once again given the sheer defensive force the Argentinians have shown so far.
As in 1990, the German team has been able to react to very different opposition adequately since Löw has formed this squad of individuals into a team in which everyone is willing to help furthering the project of winning the World Cup. Incredibly, this has happened at a tournament which I had never thought they might win given their difficult to gauge form in the spring and the number of injured players prior to the start. I agreed, however, at once to a friend of twenty-five years now based in Berlin who had said on watching Müller score the two nil in the German cup final of Bayern vs. Borussia Dortmund that this scene alone had stirred his hopes for a successful World Cup this summer.
Now Müller has scored five goals himself, all from different positions, providing three assists, and they have reached the final. Robben who also scored in that cup final has played a satisfactory tournament, too, partly at the helm of the Dutch side, so that this club match proves to have provided vital hints at the form of certain players. Given that the Bayern players had had their crisis in April, losing some league matches as well as the semi-final tie in the Champions League, they were not as exhausted mentally and emotionally as those internationals who had taken part in the final game of the Primera División between Atlético and Barça and the Champions League Final between Real and Atlético.
Friday, 11th July 2014, 10.07 a.m.
If there is time, as on Friday when there are no classes to teach, there are, of course, still the weeds to pick, taking care, that is, not to be cut by splinters of the bricks of our old roof still hidden in the crevices, but I can also return to typing this journal several times a day – given that before the grand final there are some speculative discussions about Vlaar’s penalty having crossed the line after all. What I sensed in the first place is that he hit the ball a second time – which is prohibited, while, according to the rule, the ball may hit the post or bar any number of times before crossing the line if the movement hasn’t been interrupted or a second touch apart from that by the goalkeeper hasn’t been made. Once again, it is the Guardian to have picked up this subject, so that at least in terms of media coverage the country where football in the modern sense was born still heads the pack. The English papers have also given up on linking German football teams and World War Two, while USA Today couldn’t but reveal their cultural backwardness by relating the Belo Horizonte win to the early successes of Hitler’s armies.
With hindsight, it is perhaps interesting to recount that both in 1954 and in 1974 the players who would form the backbone of the World Cup winning side had suffered bitter defeats in the season prior to the tournament. Just before their training camp started Fritz Walter the skipper of the team in 1954 and his four team-mates from 1. FC Kaiserslautern had been thrashed by five goals to one in the final of the German championship by outsiders Hannover 96 on 23rd May. Through Eckel, the holders had taken the lead early on. It was one all at half-time. After Hanover had taken the lead early in the second half, they took Kaiserslautern apart in the last fifteen minutes. The present German team-doctor and his elder brother, both youngsters living in East Frisia at the time, had watched this match in Hamburg, enthusiastic about the great surprise, sharing that experience with many others in a packed ground.
Likewise, Bayern Munich in 1973/1974 had experienced a terrific defeat by four goals to seven at Kaiserslautern after having been three nil and four one up. Neither Sepp Herberger nor Helmut Schön was willing to leave any of his team props at home, so that they were prepared to fight back in the final of the World Cup. Hungary was two nil up after only eight minutes, while The Netherlands in 1974 took the lead in the very first minute.
Similarly, Bayern had faced Atlético in the European Cup Final in May 1974, losing one nil until Georg Schwarzenbeck equalized in the very last minute of extra-time. In the replay two days later, with the penalty shoot-out as a tiebreaker not yet in place, Bayern beat the Spanish side by four goals to nil. Forty years later, Atlético once again led the favourites into additional time, that is, before Sergio Ramos, like Schwarzenbeck a defender, made it one all after 93 minutes. In extra-time it seemed as if history repeated itself, Real finally clinching their coveted la Décima, while Atlético had to be content with the league title.
Friday, 11th July 2014, 12.35 a.m.