In Sweden I had a room on the seventh floor of a dormitory. From my kitchen window I could overlook the football field behind the apartment buildings and was amazed how there were always kids playing. Early in the morning until late at night, during sun and rain, in big groups or all alone- as long as they had a ball they were happy. Probably they dreamed of great victories and memorable games, the idea to be better than the rest and defeat everyone else. That was their thrill.
In my experience, the thrill of loving football is the thrill that is part of every unconditional love. It is the risk of getting your heart broken time and again, to see your dreams shattered, and the willingness to take that risk. Every football fan experiences this moment, most of them rather sooner than later, when you have to realize that no matter how much you wish for it, a happy end is very rare. For me, this moment was the 4th of july, 2006, around 11.20 pm.
It was the semi-final of the world cup in Germany, Germany against Italy. For four weeks the entire country had been riding a wave of euphoria in black-red-gold. Everyone had a flag hanging out of the window, everyone was wearing a jersey, suddenly everyone believed that the dream to win the world cup could actually come true. And then came this game against Italy. It was two teams at eye level, fighting to make it to the final. After 90 minutes it was still 0-0, so the game went into overtime. In these 30 minutes, Italy had the better chances, seemed fitter and more present. But they failed to make the goal and everyone expected that a penalty shootout will have to decide the winner.
Until the 119. minute. Corner for Italy, Pirlo to Grosso, who shoots right into the far corner, unsaveable for Lehmann. It has been 8 years, but I still remember that exact moment when I saw the ball in the net and I knew that it was over. I didn’t hear the singing Italian fans around me anymore, I didn’t see how Italy scored the second goal two minutes later, I didn’t feel my friend trying to console me. I had my head buried and cried into my shirt that said “Das Wunder von Berlin” (The miracle of Berlin). The miracle was over. I didn’t even care that a press photographer took a picture of me in that exact moment and that it was in every newspaper the next morning.
It took me a long time to get over that. Weeks later I still caught myself thinking about what could and should have been, how little details in the game might have led to a different result. But eventually time healed those wounds and two years later I supported the German team during the European championship, saw them play beautiful football, saw them win at the last second in the semi-final, only to see them lose in the final against Spain. Then in 2010, the world cup euphoria returned to the German streets, millions saw the German team and their inspired football that sent home England and Argentina crushed and I was about to join in into the hype, having almost forgotten about the heartbreak four years earlier. Then the semi-finals came and Germany lost against Spain. Again. Another two years passed, I was doing my Master by then and during the European championship in 2012, Germany really seemed to be a rather save guess for finally winning the tournament. They had great individual players, they were a team, they were in their best age, they survived the “group of death” with Portugal and the Netherlands. But after a semi-final against Italy that got lost due to tactical mistakes of the coach, Germany once again was out.
So here we are again now. Another two years later and eight years after this first and most harmful heartbreak. Eight years full of disappointments and let-downs. I got older, I got wiser, and one would think that by now I would be able to see football as what it is, just a game. Nice to win, but not the end of the world to lose. But FUCK IT!! Later today I will put on my jersey, wear my football scarf and scream and cheer and laugh and curse and do everything the way I did it as a high school-boy eight years ago, hoping that this time it will not end in yet another heartbreak. After all, this time it REALLY is Germany’s turn to win the god-damn thing!