Summer Blog Post Thirteen

Ango-German Portraits; Football World Cup Brazil 2014

Summer Blog Post Thirteen

 

Summer Blog Post Thirteen

Dear readers of my blog,

there was no procrastination on my part concerning no. 13, I can admit that without any remorse. On the contrary, for various reasons, unmentionable here, I rather like this number. My week since Tuesday has been so busy that I was simply unable to continue this blog.

Today, however, with the summer recess at school coming ever closer, and most of all duties now to be fulfilled when I am there rather than when staying at home, I again felt up to thinking of continuation. The poetic text I insert today before football takes over has been in the making for at least fifteen years, while I had the first idea when attending the 65th anniversary symposium held for Hans Walter Gabler at Innsbruck in late January 2003. At the time, though, I thought it might become a study. Now I am happy to see it has become a prose text consisting of short paragraphs rather than a poem which it was until early 2018 when one of the dedicatees had raised doubts about the justification I had for some texts to type them in the form of verse rather than prose.

Anglo-German relations:

An anthology of pen-portraits

St.-Évremond and St.-Beuve in memoriam

Dedicated to a seven some of friends who have never met: painters & writers of dramas, essays, journalism, novels, poems and sermons: all born in 1953[1]

Part One

Adopted sons and daughters of His or Her Majesty such as the great George Frederick Handel before them travellers or emigrants who settle for good – they all share an affinity for cross-Channel lives.

Part Two

A composer who once rocked on old Goethe’s knees before displaying his precocious genius on the keys undertook a Scottish journey putting pen to paper about Fingal’s Cave off the West Coast and won fame easily with “Lieder ohne Worte”.

Part Three

Unknown to Mendelssohn then long since dead the descendant of French Huguenots painted a pen-portrait of that basalt isle a few miles north of Iona even now an affair of rocking boats writing the ballad: “Die Brück’ am Tay” dated 28 December 1879 still read by many a German grammar school pupil.

Part Four

Theodor Fontané read the train crash through Macbeth re-casting the witches in German verse while Lady Wilde an incensed patriotic writer in 1840s’ Dublin imperatively asked poor Oscar in April 1895 to face the vitriolic verbal music of his court case in late-Victorian London.

Part Five

A translator too Lady Wilde spread a German Gothic novel which became her son’s favourite read while her coeval a German lawyer-cum-historian studied diplomatic action of times bygone though he may be better known as Rektor of Bonn University to have signed Pirandello’s diploma.

Part Six

Hermann Joseph Hüffer from a famille nombreuse survivor into the twentieth century recorded his younger brother’s life and work in the wake of Schopenhauer & Wagner’s English reputations – a true critic whose fame was soon eclipsed by that of those he championed: Dante Gabriel Rossetti among them.

Part Seven

Franz Hüffer does resurface for whoever has eyes to see not least in Oscar Wilde’s essay on the Grosvenor Gallery a first-page appearance in correct Germanic spelling; or in James Joyce’s Trieste library which held his much-acclaimed study of the troubadours.

Part Eight

Joyce himself struck an exiled German-Jewish critic with his “grandfatherly” appeal when in the mid 1930s he ought to have been pugnacious – unlike Victor Hugo that is whose L’Art d’être grand-père grew in his mind and on the page while he still fought for the nascent IIIè République.

Part Nine

Alfred Kerr who infuriated Joyce by printing their interview struggled with English in London whilst cherishing everything French may have never known Ford Madox Ford Franz Hüffer’s son who – brought up trilingually according to the German educationist Fröbel’s principles – kept his liking for German wine and good life last facing the Rhine in the autumn of 1932 when he foresaw dark times whose victim became a Viennese mathematician businessman writer & Jew who quite like Ford praised Joyce’s novel Ulysses and who – aided and abetted by an artists’ network – fled to New York via Croydon Hermann Broch that is.

Part Ten

A centenary conference TV interview at Münster Westphalia for a few seconds highlighted Aldous Huxley’s “mistress” seen in black and white with the writer at München – the family even then unwilling to disclose his fling but so far the projected biography has remained an idea waiting to be realized even now for one day I discovered a book for sale from the late biographer’s estate with my dedication in an antiquarian bookshop’s online catalogue.

Part Eleven

A psychiatrist’s son born at Breslau like Alfred Kerr bred in Berlin a polyglot theologian who did his time in Barcelona and London before being lionised in the United States but who never thought of leaving Germany for good a man of resistance a poet forever hopeful. Almost exactly Bonhoeffer’s coeval the Irish writer from a Protestant Dublin family fell in love with a girl a cousin from Kassel travelled around Germany in search of “Entartete Kunst” before public galleries shut them away and who late in his life shared things German in Paris with a young man from Alsace.

 

Part Twelve

Samuel Beckett an exile like Joyce a student at Portora Royal School like Wilde Nobel Laureate like Yeats Shaw Heaney for some time gave up English for French just like Heym Stefan a German Jew who took up English and passed on his papers to Cambridge as did Beckett to Reading University – and translated his earlier work into German. Fried Erich & Freud Sigmund arrived in London in thirty-eight famous & fatally ill the latter unknown but brash the former: his reply to the Jewish Committee as to what he would do: Ich will ein deutscher Dichter werden[2] hair-raisingly hazardous even now.

Part Thirteen

The first name only fit for Anglophones if pronounced “Hughie” the surname common enough – Uwe Johnson after some years in New York unable to return to the lost Mecklenburg of his youth settled at Sheerness-on-Sea close to Dickens’s early haunts. No novelist like Johnson nor a poet & translator of the bard and the spy of Elizabethan times like Fried Winfried Georg “Max”imilian Sebald like Ford Madox Ford in writing cut across all established literary genres starting life as a scholar who at twenty-five saw through camouflage political correctness on famous writers’ parts never fully to adopt English but to express a foreigner’s view on things German as does while using English a famous German writer’s son Michael Hofmann that is who did a labour of love for his late father’s novels and also became Joseph Roth’s English voice.

Part Fourteen

Whoever first called him Radio Unna had moments in mind when his voice intervened from the back of the room sitting in a TV armchair during football matches but failed to see the variety in him otherwise termed Veus who started listening to British Forces Radio in the 1970s and after a music-only and translation phase took to writing of things English French Italian West European in his pied-à-terre in a North-German province where he traces ordinary peoples’ lives recording their voices a mixed bunch of memories illusions & delusions until he struck on a group of Anglo-German relations whose kinship he enjoys while airing whims of his own.

Münster 25 & 27 March –

Leer, East Frisia, 11 May 2004 & 8 January 2018; 21st & 22nd June 2019

 

 


[1] Klaus Frerichs, Egon Günther, Hugo Hamilton, Reinhard Jirgl, Danny Morrison, Wolfgang Schmidtke, Peter Staengle.

 

[2]I want to become a German poet.”

 

 

28

The top news from the World Cup in Brazil, provided by my web browser this morning is Neymar’s injury ruling out his playing once more in the week to come. The voice that comments on the saddened voices of many fans waiting outside the hospital invokes a whole country’s sorrow about this blow regarding their hopes to win the World Cup for the sixth time.

In fact, I believe with Neymar out for the tournament and Thiago Silva banned for Tuesday’s semi-final, Brazil’s chances to defeat Germany have actually increased. Scolari will have to change his winning team, and that means that Germany won’t know as well as they did yesterday with France what the Selecão is going to do. With Neymar out, I have no chance whatsoever to win a bonus for my prediction that a Brazilian player will become top scorer. James Rodriguez scored his sixth and last, but he is still ahead, and both Messi and Müller have three or two matches before them. Even Robben and van Persie could reach Rodriguez if they were as successful in the games to come as they were in the past.

       Going for Germany in the semi-final increases my chances of winning points in any case since I had seen Brazil in the final.

 

***

On return from our weekly shopping in the market-place of Leer, I continue writing up my impressions from yesterday’s match, which was another fair one, while the later tie of Brazil vs. Colombia seems to have been characterized by 52 partly brutal fouls (31 were to Brazil’s “credit”) primarily concerning Neymar, the chief victim, as well as James Rodriguez. I recall that in Brazil vs.Chile I was later impressed by Howard Webb’s success in having calmed the players.

If more yellow cards had been shown in the round of the last 16, more players would have had to rely on their legs to be faster than their adversaries rather than on their luck to escape sanctions. The Argentinian trio in the France vs. Germany match weren’t consistent either, blowing the whistle relentlessly for harmless tearing at shirts or shorts – sanctioned by a yellow card according to the rules –, while they seemed unable to punish Evra’s tally of at least four or five kicks at his adversaries’ legs. Moreover, the assistant in the shadow didn’t spot offside positions at all well although Germany defended in such a way that placing the French offside was to have been their obvious intention throughout, whereas most long balls of les Bleus were looking and hoping for the sole striker behind the German defenders, so that the application of this rule in a fast-moving match ought to have been at the centre of their pre-match deliberations.

 

***

Before the start of Saturday’s matches, of which I plan to watch only the first half of the Argentina vs. Belgium tie, it’s perhaps pertinent to note a few remarks on the France vs. Germany tie. The aftermath is a rehash of what you could have read twenty or even thirty years ago. “Once it’s really important, it’s the Germans who win.” A variation on Gary Lineker’s saying about football being a game for 22 players with the Germans always eventually winning.

He said so primarily about the last squad from West Germany that won the World Cup on Sunday, 8th July 1990. It was him who scored England’s goal in the Turin semi-final on Wednesday, 4th July 1990, to the day 24 years before yesterday’s quarter-final game against France. Since 1954, this date has been one of at least three dates in July related to important German wins, the others being the 7th July 1974 when they defeated the Netherlands at Munich by two goals to one, and the 8th July 1990. After re-unification, they have won just one more title, at the old Wembley Stadium, that is, on 30th June 1996, after having qualified against England – once more on penalties – on 26th June.[1]

Since then, for more than 18 years now, the German national team has been waiting for such a moment, and now they face Brazil on their home-soil where they have never won a single game until yesterday’s match which took place at the Maracanã stadium.

 

***

Having watched only the last 37 minutes of the first half plus 2 minutes of additional time of the Argentina vs. Belgium tie I can say that the Albiceleste are certainly very hard to beat, indeed, since they never lose their 4-3-3 formation as the reporter says. Les Diables rouges, however, find it extremely difficult to approach the goal of Romero who should be targeted regularly since he really seems very insecure. On the whole, the Belgians fail to put the Argentinians under pressure who nearly always succeed in putting their legs in between one of the many short passes, or they don’t have to do anything because the long balls and crosses fail to reach their recipient.

       Needless to say that Higuaín’s eighth minute goal has helped Argentina very much in general, while the forward himself seems to be liberated, moving much better than before and in harmony with Messi who always waits for his chance at the centre-circle, while also attacking the defenders once the Argentinians have lost the ball. It should be mentioned that Higuaín started to play better before Di María had to leave the pitch owing to a thigh injury incurred without any adversary’s influence. The reporter may well state that Belgium scored their earliest goal in the 70th minute, I am convinced that if they don’t radically change their approach, they won’t stand a chance to win this match in the closing stages as Argentina will have scored a second before then.

Saturday, 5th July 2014

29

There was no trace of the World Cup in the nine o’clock news on the radio on Sunday morning, so I had to switch on the computer to find out about the outcome of The Netherlands vs. Costa Rica quarter-finals. Seeing the headline I immediately thought, well-done not to have waited until 00.45 a.m.! There’s a video available of the penalty shoot-out after it had remained goalless until full-time and also after extra-time.

The first surprise I had met in reading the few lines was that Louis van Gaal had substituted his goalkeeper before the final whistle. Tim Krul had come in for Jasper Cillessen. The only time I recall such a substitution being made in Germany was in the cup semi-final 2012 when Mike Büskens, coach of Fürth, did the same only to find his side beaten by a last-minute shot by Ilkay Gündogan of Borussia Dortmund. In that match, the penalty expert only touched the ball once when he had to grab it from behind him. He has never played for Fürth again.

       The reporter has time to recall the events of the match when announcing the players for the shoot-out. The first to take a penalty is a Costa Rican. Throughout, the reporter confirms that the Central Americans relive their experience from the previous round, while the first four Dutch players turn out to be the most experienced hands: van Persie, Sneijder, who had hit the crossbar and the left post but hit home infallibly here, Robben, who had only missed two penalties in his career, both for Bayern in very important matches in 2012, and, finally, Dirk Kuyt, in his third World Cup. They didn’t need a fifth player, for the Costa Ricans were stopped twice by Krul who always had the right corner, diving four times to his left and once to his right.

In between, he seemed to be in friendly dialogue with his adversaries, which, however, didn’t prove true, in fact, for after the third attempt it was the referee from Usbekistan who prevented Krul from once again approaching the Costa Rican player before he took his penalty. Navas, who was not lucky to save a single penalty, kept away from the Dutch throughout.

       On saving the fifth penalty, Krul is fêted by his team-mates, while the reporter says a monument should be erected to Louis van Gaal in the Netherlands if things go on like this, for he had kept his hand quite well covered for most the game, asking his side not to risk too much before showing the ace he had up his sleeve in the last minute of extra-time.

       So I earn six points from this second quarter-final day. The two semi-finals can be seen as replays of earlier finals: Brazil vs.Germany goes back to 2002 when the former won through two goals scored by Ronaldo, while Netherlands vs. Argentina hails from 1978 when the latter won by three goals to one after extra-time. A realist, I think it’ll be an all South-American final, whereas the two European sides play for third place in Brasilia on Saturday, thus producing two neighbourhood derbies where no love will be lost since both are separated by their hunger for success. What I consider less likely is an all-European final with the South Americans fighting for the bronze medal or the “golden pine-apple” usually invoked in German when nothing is at stake any more but prestige. Perhaps it’s also South America vs. Europe in both matches. If I go for Germany, as indeed I will most certainly do, I will still earn my bonus should Brazil accede to the final. It could be penalties once again between the Netherlands and Argentina since both have pursued quite a defensive line in all of their matches, including the group stage.

 

***

Some words should be devoted to losers Costa Rica. In fact, they travel home unbeaten in actual play after two wins and three draws against European and South American opposition who all had won continental or global titles, beginning with Uruguay, the holders of the Copa América, apart from having won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950, through Italy, World Cup winners four times, last in 2006, England, winners in 1966, Greece, winners of the Euro in 2004, and, finally, the Netherlands, runners-up in 1974, 1978, and 2010, as well as Euro winner in 1988. This is certainly an outsider’s success story, even more memorable in that both Uruguay and the Netherlands resorted to either unfair kicks, justly punished by a red card in the first match, or unfair verbal interventions by Tim Krul before the Costa Ricans took their penalties. I recall from table-tennis tournaments in a students’ residence hall at Lille in the 1980s that Algerian and French students sought to unnerve each other by such tactics and this behaviour made me give up playing and taking to refereeing instead. Yesterday’s referee is severely criticized for not having intervened at once, forbidding Krul to approach his adversary.

       In a radio World Cup special, this was only the afterthought to a report on the unfairness Neymar had become a victim of, which the Brazilians, however, had shared as well, instead of pursuing their customary gogo bonito, the beautiful game of football. The referees and their assistants are blamed for any excesses which even a player like Dante, generally declared to be quite German in his behaviour on the pitch, can be accused of, for whoever saw his last performances for Bayern in the Bundesliga or his foul of Marco Reus in last year’s Champions League Final at Wembley, will acknowledge that he doesn’t hesitate to foul with all his physical force rather than using ruse that, according to the rules, would always earn him a yellow card. Another case in point is his compatriot Luiz Gustavo, also formerly with Bayern, who is regularly banned for his fouls.

As to foul play of that sort, both the rules and the instructions given to referees at the outset need to be reformed since it is hard to understand why brutality is not sanctioned from the very beginning of a match. At the same time, anyone who consistently fouls his adversaries should also be sanctioned so as to prevent someone like Evra from committing four or five fouls before any notice is taken.

Sunday, 6th July 2014

30

As foreseen, German players and spokespeople don’t consider Brazil easier to play without their star Neymar. Moreover, in his first statement issued during the World Cup, Schweinsteiger agrees that tough play is part of the Brazilians’ policy or philosophy, while his club team-mate Dante is reported to replace Thiago Silva, the Captain banned for tomorrow’s semi-final. While my World Cup guide had predicted the meeting of Brazil and Germany as well as a win for the latter, the chef at our school restaurant voiced his view that the hosts will be guided to the final – if need be with the help of the referee, the same, incidentally, a Mexican, who had overlooked Suárez biting Chiellini in the Italy vs. Uruguay match in the group stage. At the same time, however, this allowed for a post-match sanction which duly came and banned Suárez for competitive matches for his country for “640 days” all in all.[2]

In my own predictions made before the World Cup I had followed the history of this competition which, other than that no European team has ever won the cup in South America is even worse since today the papers report that no European team has yet won a single knock-out match against South American opposition on their home-ground. So with two South America vs. Europe semi-finals to come, either this tradition will continue, or it will be partly or completely broken.

       Intriguingly, the only all-South American finals to have taken place were Uruguay vs. Argentina in 1930 and Uruguay vs. Brazil in 1950, set in Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro respectively. If Brazil faced Argentina, the winner would be the first South American team to defeat the next-door neighbour in the final after Uruguay, so if that final came to pass, it would be a struggle for all or nothing, life or death. Both Brazil and Argentina, however, have beaten, or been beaten by, European sides in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002, as well as in 1978, 1986, and 1990. Both have already played Germany, while only Argentina has played and beaten The Netherlands in the final (1978) as well as won and lost against Germany. The only side never to have won the title are the Dutch. In eight all-European finals so far, the Germans have won two against Hungary and The Netherlands and lost two against England and Italy. The odds are against Germany since they have never before defeated Brazil on their home-ground, nor have they been able to balance their record. If they won it would still only be their fifth victory in 22 matches. Their last game, in August 2011, was a three to two win at Stuttgart, but this match won’t be replayed tomorrow even if most German players are still part of the squad. It was also the last time Schweinsteiger scored for Germany, while the two other goals were provided by Schürrle and Götze.

 

***

I cannot but recall the last-minute nerve-racking goal scored for Brazil by – guess who? – Neymar whom the Germans had allowed to roam alone in midfield after being three one up. This did annoy me at the time for it was only the second time that I witnessed Germany winning against Brazil. The first time was on 12th March 1986, the day before my twenty-fourth birthday when they had snatched a very early goal, holding on to that lead until late before managing to get a second. It was the year Germany surprisingly reached the final of the World Cup braving Maradona’s Albiceleste in one of the most entertaining finals of recent date, as The Times Newspaper found on Monday, 30th June 1986.

Harald “Toni” Schumacher, the German goalkeeper, made a single mistake in the tournament which gave Brown the chance to head home for the one nil. He missed a free kick dramatically, sailing past it in the area. At two nil mid-way into the second half, after a quick counter-attack the Argentinians had almost called it a day, which didn’t please the Germans who came back after two goals headed on and kicked in or headed home from six yards by Rummenigge and Völler subsequent to corner kicks.

Exhilarated, they tried to go for the third rather than calm down before extra-time. This gave Maradona the one chance he needed to find Burruchaga whose solo run in the centre the number ten had foreseen. Once again, Schumacher had no chance.[3] The reporter commenting the highlights after the fact remarked that it was only through set-pieces that this limited German side was able to put pressure on the Argentinian goal and given that they hadn’t let in a single goal in the knock-out stage so far their defence in the Final was easy to beat if a team had quick forwards such as Valdano and Burruchaga, who both scored, and a genius in midfield like Maradona.

At second sight in December 1986, I realized how lucky the Germans had been to equalize at all. So I was reconciled to the ill-luck of Germany’s team having lost the second final in a row.

       When they had qualified for Italia novanta, the World Cup in Italy, which was on Wednesday, 15th November 1989, following a tight two to one win over Wales at Cologne, which I had witnessed in the stands behind the goal, I thought I would try and be present in Rome for the final. In fact, I even acquired a ticket for that match on Sunday, 8th July 1990, in the extended grounds of the Stadio olimpico, which is part of the Foro italico, the grounds originally prepared for the 1940 Olympics and used for that purpose only in 1960. Thirty years on, when I was twenty-eight, being the coeval of at least half of the World Cup squad, this became my greatest experience in the life of an ardent fan of German football.

Rather than following a club with all my heart, I had opted early on to support the national team, which also meant to think of the GDR as well. In the summer of 1990, that side was on the brink of dissolution, and a week earlier, on Sunday, 1st July 1990, when Germany beat the CSFR by one goal to nil owing to a penalty converted by Matthäus, the Deutschmark had been introduced on the territory of what still was the GDR. Feature films referring to that transitional period cannot but underline that the blue shirts as opposed to the white shirts for the FRG had lost all support during the World Cup. People hoping to sell satellite TV made a point of telling potential customers that they would in any case be able to watch the complete World Cup.

       In Rome, of course, I didn’t find out anything about the aftermath of the match I had seen live. Nor did I ever think of buying a German paper to find out how the people at home felt. I only read such articles twenty years later.

With the Swedish block house, where the language school put up its fourteen students taught at any one time, located in the northern outskirts, I had to leave both the stadium and the city of Rome quite early after the fireworks closing off the World Cup. So I neither saw the German fans sleeping off their fatigue and soothing their hoarse voices around the Colosseo and the Stazione termini, nor did I have to sleep outside or fend off pickpockets – stories I only picked up in 2011 in a telephone conversation with the survivor of the two printers I had met in Rome.

On 9th July 1990, I simply woke up to a brilliantly sunny Monday morning with my fellow students being quite adamant about what boring match it all had been. Uncivilized snobs I ought to have called them. I didn’t and tried in vain to convey some of my impressions to them. They had seen, I presume, what they had wanted to see and wouldn’t budge, I soon realized.

Only one student named Roland, who was almost blind, showed any interest in what I had to tell. Before even the course had started his Italian wasn’t good enough to allow him to follow what the reporter said, so he became my captive listener in the weeks to come whenever the blues of having attended a unique match nobody wanted to hear about became too great. The way I put things now may not at all have been the tenor of my words then. Perhaps I didn’t even succeed in telling him anything of value at all.

When I first watched the complete match on DVD more than twenty years later, what surprised me at first was that I was unable to capture from the recording any of the atmosphere I still felt vibrating in myself. Things began to change slightly when I watched the final once more for I started to reconcile my own memory of the match – having sat on the far side from the goal where Brehme converted the penalty – with the camera perspective which viewed the game from the central grandstand. I felt confirmed in that the German team from the start had been the more active one with Buchwald following Maradona in a way the latter couldn’t come to terms with as he was the pivot on which the Argentinian team turned. Outclassed by one who would later be called “Diego”, Maradona was unable to control the game. From where I sat I couldn’t have seen that as well as from above, so I was permanently afraid of that single counter-attack which never came, however, since the Germans so efficiently stopped any Argentinian attempts at attacking Illgner’s goal. It was only after first one than a second player in blue-white had been sent off before and after the single goal that I felt less anxious about the outcome.

Monday, 7th July 2014

 


[1] To date, this is still the only international final on European or World level that I failed to watch since 1974. Scheduled to take the evening flight from Düsseldorf to Dublin that day, I only saw the teams lining up for the national anthems before boarding the plane.

[2] Luis Suarez: Uruguay striker to make return after biting ban - BBC https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/35879116Sporthttps://www.bbc.com/sport/football/35879116 (Accessed: 18th July 2018).

[3] Fussball WM 1986 - Deutschland vs Argentinien (Finale) – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4ZEwnGy5ec (Accessed: 18th July 2018).

 

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