Matthew Monk is a school teacher
from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
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Put your hand up if you think I am a traitor
Something strange happened to me while I was watching
today's games. I started wanting Germany to win.
I'll repeat that in case you missed it: I wanted
Germany to beat Ireland.
Now this has nothing to do with me hating or even
slightly disliking Ireland, I don't. In 1994 when
England failed to qualify I wanted Ireland to win.
Ireland have supplied Liverpool with some of our
greatest ever players - Steve Heighway, Ronnie Whelan,
Mark Lawrenson, John Aldridge - and we owe a big debt
to that country. No it was nothing to do with
Ireland; this had everything to do with Germany.
All the more bizarrely, something almost identical to
this happened eight years ago, again while I was
watching the World Cup. That time it involved
Argentina. I sat there watching Maradona and
Batistuta decimate Greece, and thought to myself 'this
is a good team'. I realised how blind I had been for
years, how taken in I had been by the British media
and its' ingrained xenophobic attitudes. I sat at
home in 1986 and wanted to string up Maradona along
with everyone else, and a year later when he came to
Wembley to play in the League Centenary game, I booed
every touch he got of the ball - as did all 80 000
people inside the ground.
But as I sat watching him obliterate Greece I found
myself marvelling at his touch, his control, his
movement. His amazing goal - and mad, screaming dash
towards the TV camera - won me over forever. He was
forgiven, and from that moment on I was a Diego
Armando Maradona fan.
Even then though, I never totally came over to the
idea of being an Argentina fan. I like the way they
played, and was intoxicated by the TV pictures I had
seen of the crazy fans and atmosphere they generated
at the Monumental and Bombonera, but fell short of
wanting Argentina to win most games. I wanted them to
beat Nigeria, Bulgaria and Romania that summer, but
once the finals were over I took less interest in
Argentina and more in Maradona. I would still enjoy
watching Argentina play, but by 1998 and the game in
St Etienne, I was back wanting Argentina to lose.
Then again they were playing England.
So I quite like Argentina, and I count Diego among my
heroes. But Germany? An England fan wanting Germany
to win? This one I did not see coming.
I was just sat there, watching the ITV coverage of the
game, and all of a sudden - just before kick-off - I
found myself thinking 'It would be good if Germany
won'. It was subconscious at first, but then I found
myself hoping that Klose, Ballack or Jancker would
score. It was about then I picked up my thoughts, and
when Klose scored his superb header I almost cheered.
The only reason I did not do so was because I stopped
myself, and questioned what I was doing. 'What is
happening to me?' I thought 'I cannot really be
wanting and hoping for a German victory can I? How
can I be doing this? - I am English, I support England
and these are our enemies.'
But I really did want Germany to win. I started to
want Ireland to lose possession, for all their attacks
to break down, their free kicks to sail over the bar.
It was one of the weirdest feelings of my life, but I
knew I felt it was right.
Of course I have also picked the tail end of probably
the worst German team ever to start liking. Germany
have emerged under Rudi Völler from a half decade of
shambolic performances and crushing defeats, but they
are by no means back on top of the football world.
They have survived the lowest point in their entire
history - that 5:1 in Munich - and are on their way
back, but there is still a massive way to go.
Völler has a team of potential mixed in with a whole
group of journeymen, sprinkled with one or two
world-class stars. It is not a particularly exciting
team, and they don't even lose any more, so what did I
(or more properly, what do I) like about them?
I like the way German football has never changed,
never panicked, and never gave in. After being
humbled by England it would have been easy for Germany
to rip up the gameplan and start all over again. But
they did not. They knew the system worked, it was
just that the personnel was wrong. And although Bild
ripped into the national squad for not being able to
beat England, there was no massive public outcry, no
collective soul searching and no call for a route and
branch re-examination of German football.
Germany just got on with the task of getting better,
just as it had always done. The team of Fritz Walter
had eventually fallen away and was replaced slowly by
the Seeler-Weber-Overath-Beckenbauer version. Then in
came Netzer, Müller and Bonhof, and when they retired,
Rummenigge, Kaltz, Littbarski, Matthäus, Brehme and
Klinsmann were found to take over. It was a non-stop
conveyor belt of talent and continuity, and though at
times it wasn't the prettiest football in the world,
it won. And it made Germany the prime football nation
on the planet, bar none.
So the German people just expected their football team
to rise again, and slowly but surely they started to
do just that.
It is not just this dogged determination I like. I
like the confidence that runs through this German
team, not really a confidence in doing well, but the
kind of confidence you see all over Germany. It is
the type of confidence that comes from being a happy,
successful nation, one that is sure of it's role in
the world, and one that also knows it does not want
anything else. It is not arrogance - I spent two
weeks travelling around northern Germany two summers
ago and never met a single person I would consider
'arrogant'. Instead I met a huge amount of
compassionate, helpful, happy, successful people. I
am not stupid enough to think of Germany as some sort
of utopia, and am fully aware of the lingering social
problems that exist just under the surface. But I
felt safer and more secure there than I do in many
parts of Britain.
Yet I had known this of Germany and German people for
a fair few years, so what made me suddenly start
liking their football team now? Lets start with
Carsten Jancker. On TV today there was a running
commentary about Jancker being a 'non-scoring
striker', and it gave the commentators plenty of
opportunity to ridicule him. But there is something
about this tall, bald footballer that I like. In
English parlance he is a 'donkey', a big lumbering
player with not that much going for him. But Jancker
is a lot more than that. He runs all day, and keeps
on trying and harassing the opposition defence until
they crack. Sure he might not score a lot of goals,
but Klose and Ballack have been doing - and they owe
lots of credit to Jancker.
Another German player I have a great affinity with -
in fact the one I have the greatest affinity with - is
Didi Hamann. Whenever I watch Liverpool play it is
Hamman that impresses me as much as anyone. His job
is to break up the oppositions play and to support
Stevie Gerrard. He is the vital link between defence
and attack, and it is no surprise that when Hamann
joined from Newcastle, Liverpool started to go places
at last. I love the way he is everywhere on the
pitch, and is always ready to make a vital challenge.
He is just as essential to Liverpool as Sami Hyypia or
Michael Owen, and is just as critical a player for
Germany. If he could only get more goals, he would be
close to being the complete midfielder. I wish he was
Then there is Oliver Kahn in goal - the best in the
world. No question here - just look at the saves he
managed to pull off today. And what about Michael
Ballack and Miroslav Klose? I have even found time
for serial non-trier Christian Ziege - but what that
thing is on his head, I don't know?
I can't wait for Germany's next game. I hope they
demolish Cameroon, and then go on to beat Slovenia and
Italy. That would put Germany back where they belong
- in the World Cup semi-final. I don't think it is
going to happen though - Germany is not quite ready
for that yet. But I am happy Germany are coming back,
and I don't care if everyone else in England thinks I
am some sort of traitor or idiot, this German team has
changed my mind and has brought my World Cup to life.
That is why I love the World Cup - it does strange
things to people. Thank you Monsieur Rimet.
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