Germany didn’t win the Euro Cup because the Germans weren’t German enough?
That’s currently the debate in the country, as some analysts claim that the German national soccer team failed to win because they didn’t tap their inner nationalism.
Stop right there.
I know exactly what you’re thinking.
And it’s wrong.
Refrain from the Nazi jabs. German nationalism is an issue of intense debate in a country still haunted by demons two generations ago.
Flying a German flag, singing the German national anthem … even excessively rooting for the German national team is taboo in a country where shadows of World War II make Germans sweat.
Still struggling to wrap your noodle around the concept? Think of it this way: As much American pride as you will be flaunting this July 4, the Germans show the exact opposite amount of nationalism every day of the year.
Spain may have won the Euro 2012 tournament with a 4-0 drubbing of Italy in the championship, but some wonder if it would have been a more evenly-matched game had Germany played the Spanish giants in the final. Germany — a powerhouse team that many thought the favorites in Euro 2012 — lost in a massive 2-1 upset to Italy in the tournament’s semi-final game on Thursday.
The German team in that Italy game looked slow and uninspired and were easily over whelmed by a more fervent Italy squad.
According to the Associated Press, Wolfsburg and former Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath wrote in a weekend newspaper column that ''those who saw how fervently the Italians sang, even screamed, their anthem could sense the will with which they would approach the following 95 minutes.''
Conservative lawmaker Hans-Peter Uhl was quoted Monday as telling the Bild daily it was ''shameful that not all our players sing along with our anthem.''
Half of the team didn’t sing the anthem when cameras panned them before the game.
Cue the Nazi punch lines.
But it’s a reasonable question to ask. The modern German psyche has the horrors of World War II ingrained in them, but when — after two generations — will the Germans move on?
Germany strives to avoid recreating any bit of the social or cultural perspectives that helped fuel the Nazi Holocaust on the continent. Even in the current euro crisis, some have said that Germany’s huge emphasis on austerity is an attempt to avoid the hyper-inflation that led to Hitler’s rise to power in an economically depressed 1930s Germany.
In 2006, Germany hosted the soccer World Cup and it was then-coach (and current USA soccer coach) Jürgen Klinsmann who forced a paradigm shift in German’s attitude toward their country. As the national team advanced deeper into the tournament, Klinsmann’s open attitude to German nationalism inspired a paradigm shift in the German mentality. Suddenly the team was singing the national anthem. Suddenly Germans were waving their black, red, gold flags. It was OK to be German.
Sport has a way of forcing socio-political issues out onto the open. Two generations after World War II, Germans still struggle with the perception that they are all Nazi bigots bent on taking over the world. France doesn’t face its Napoleon past. The British Empire isn’t demonized. The “Japs” aren't assailed by a barrage of modern criticism for Pearl Harbor.
So the points that Magath and Uhl bring up are important. Will Germany ever be known beyond its Nazi past?
I would like to see a Germany less shackled by it's past. Germany has learned, and we will never see another Nazi regime in the country. Germans should accept their nationalism, and the rest of the world should acknowledge that the country is not the villain it was in the 20th century.
Then again, all of this sports-meets-politics stuff may just be hot air. German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich did sound a note of caution. He told Bayern2 radio that ''one should not, after losing a semi-final, look for every possible reason why things didn't work out.''