Will Euro 2024 bring Germany another summer fairy tale?

Via Nick Beake, European correspondent

PA Media A young man wearing a German flag and a German flag on his cheek looks happy in Munich, June 13, 2024PA Media

The German men’s team has not won in the knockout stages of an international tournament for eight years

Outside the town hall in Munich’s historic center, a rousing performance of the national anthem rang out.

It was a musical performance that caused a round of enthusiastic applause among the curious Bavarian locals who stopped to enjoy it.

But the lone musician was not German. He is Scottish. And his musical instrument is the bagpipe.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a German who is completely happy performing their national anthem like this. Rude or impromptu public displays of patriotism are not very German.

However, this lilting interlude clearly reflects how energized the visiting football fans are and offers a reminder to the hosts, who have so far seemed somewhat indifferent to the party they are about to hold this summer.

A flute player in Munich

Scotland fans gathered in Munich ahead of their first match of the tournament, which they take on Germany

Researchers attribute that to a total of eight years without a win in the knockout stages of an international men’s tournament, high ticket prices and widespread unrest across the country.

German politics is increasingly fragmented and fractured, with conflicts within the coalition government, and economic growth is sluggish at best.

What the country really needs is another “Sommermärchen” – a summer fairy tale.

This is a title favorably assigned to the summer of 2006, when Germany hosted the Men’s World Cup.

While today most Germans still raise eyebrows at impromptu performances of their national anthem on the streets, 2006 was notable in that fans waved flags with carefree joy.

In the past, many people felt extremely uncomfortable when displaying the national colors – a legacy of the country’s difficult 20th century.

The hosts were eliminated in the semi-finals 18 years ago, but not before capturing the public’s imagination. On the contrary, this has shown the world a more united, colorful and confident country.

Ullstein Bild/Getty Images German fans watch a match during the 2006 World CupUllstein Bild/Getty Images

In 2006, Germany was eliminated from the World Cup in the semi-finals against Italy, the eventual winners

“Everyone hopes for a Sommermärchen 2.0 with the happy mood of 2006 returning in 2024, but I have my doubts,” said leading football journalist Philipp Köster.

He identifies several reasons why he feels this way.

“It’s a different situation, we’re at war in Ukraine, we’ve just gone through a pandemic, society is torn, people don’t know which direction they should go.”

Germany’s ruling three-party coalition, which came to power in 2021, has passed key legislation, but ongoing controversy has made it unpopular.

At the same time, the far-right anti-immigrant AfD has gained support and achieved unprecedented success, coming in second in last weekend’s European Parliament elections.

“It will be interesting to see if this tournament makes people come together, become good hosts and maybe find some direction for themselves,” Philipp Köster said.

There’s a lot of direction at ESV Freimann football club north of Munich.

It comes from countless volunteer coaches broadcasting vocal words of encouragement to dozens of young players practicing on the perfectly manicured turf.

More than 300 children play here every week with 18 teams. The women’s side is currently the most successful.

If many German adults are looking forward to attending Euro 2024, teenagers here are bucking the trend. They are giddy with the prospect of becoming homeowners.

“I think it will bring people together because it’s something we share as a community because a lot of people love football,” Samuel, 14, said.

But he doesn’t believe Germany is strong enough to win the tournament.

That is a view shared by his teammate Ryan, although he predicts the impact of a home win will be huge.

“If the Germans win, more people will play the game and that’s a really good thing. But I can’t believe it all happened where I live.”

Young player of ESV Freimann football club

Samuel, 14, said the tournament would bring people together but didn’t think Germany would win

For the national organizing committee, the safety and security of all fans is the number one priority.

Euro 2024 takes place at a time of rising international tensions due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the new conflict in the Middle East.

Outside police headquarters in central Munich, I meet Deputy Commissioner Michael Dibowski.

From his base here, he will command operations surrounding the six matches being held in the city over the next month.

He says his goal is to make sure every fan has as much fun as possible, but his team is preparing for every type of threat one might encounter at an event. event of such magnitude.

“Over the past weeks, we have received a number of social media posts from the Islamic State,” he said.

“We have examined these posts but we do not believe there is any particular danger. Maybe someone will be motivated by this post, so we have to be here, present and prepared.”

Recently, Germany has seen a number of politically motivated attacks.

Earlier this month, a police officer was stabbed to death in Mannheim, in the southwest of the country, while a far-right gathering was taking place.

Offside Images/Getty Police gather Scotland fans in MunichOffside image/Getty

Security was increased as 2.7 million football fans were expected

With much of the preparations so far taking place out of public view, it is understandable to some extent that the collective excitement has not yet peaked.

And it’s worth remembering that before Germany’s golden summer of 2006, there wasn’t much public enthusiasm for the tournament.

But then the action begins and the fairy tale is written.

Veteran journalist Philipp Köster says there should never be any doubt about the game’s potential.

“If there is anything that can bring Germany and its people together, it is football,” he said.

“The country’s last great campfire, where everyone can feel at home regardless of political or religious differences.”

He believes that it is very important for Germany to do well, but that is not everything.

“Of course, we want to be good hosts. When 100,000 Scots, English, Dutch, Spanish, Italians come here, we don’t want to be the sour-faced Germans. This is a good opportunity to show Germany’s friendly face.”


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