Whether a sign of age-induced mellowing or of resignation that England will always be toss at major tournaments, I resolved this weekend — not six days after seeing Low’s team lay waste to England’s World Cup hopes — to support Germany against Argentina. Though I am half-German myself, I’ve always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the national football team, not least because of their tendency to beat England (the country of my birth) whenever it really mattered.
Along with a few friends, I went to see the game at a place called Kunsthalle, which, as the name screams, has German roots of its own.
As clear a sign as any of how much more interesting Seoul has become in recent years, Kunsthalle is a branch of a “subcultural collective” that started in Berlin in 2000. Made up of a series of shipping containers, it has a warehouse-like interior with a bar, restaurant and a series of exhibition spaces. When we arrived on Saturday at about 9pm, what we saw was not a bunch of weissbier-swilling fussball fans, but one of the centre’s regular flea markets, in which small teams of Korean and foreign hipsters offered retro clothes, T-shirts, face-painting and the like, against a backdrop of very loud dance music.
By 10.30 or so, though, the beatnik Koreans were being increasingly displaced by a very diverse bunch of Germans, ranging from young student types to middle-aged professionals and even, it seemed, a few German gyopos.
Predictably enough with German fans, there was a lively but convivial atmosphere, with chants focused on backing their own team rather than insulting the opposition. And by scoring so early, the German team certainly did their bit in prompting a real carnival atmosphere in Kunsthalle. Even by my own standards, my photographs for this didn’t come out well, but for a taste of the post-goal mayhem:
My mate who was there said that it was the best post-match party he’d seen at this World Cup, and I have to say I’m inclined to agree. Though it couldn’t, of course, compete in scale with the absolute insanity during the 2002 World Cup here in Korea, I think there were certain echoes with those halcyon days. Whereas this year, with what was widely reckoned to be their most talented squad ever, Team Korea had acquired a bit of the “Korea Expects” type mentality that so afflicts England, among many others, the Germans arrived in South Africa with an unfancied team, blissfully unburdened (by their lofty standards) with expectations of winning the World Cup.
Of course, Korea were building from a much lower base in 2002, but there is something in the spirit, speed and togetherness of this German team that brings to mind Team Korea back then. And that, I think, is part of what made watching this German team, and cheering along with the German fans, such a pleasure.
I called three of the four quarter finals correctly (excepting Uruguay) and I actually have a feeling that Germany’s glorious run will grind to a halt in the semis — provided, of course, that Spain turns it up a notch. But, more than any time since the 1990 World Cup final — when Germany came heart-wrenchingly close to overturning a two-goal deficit against a Maradona-led Argentina — I’d be happy to be proved wrong.