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2006: A love story that hasn?t ended

When Bastian Schweinsteiger drummed up enthusiasm on Sunday afternoon, there were 100,000 more, writes Dhiman sarkar.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 01:31 IST

When the Rolling Stones performed at the Brandenburg Gate, 500,000 rocked. When Bastian Schweinsteiger drummed up enthusiasm on Sunday afternoon, there were 100,000 more. Another 300,000 were still trying to get in.

Not quite Charlie Watts, but you think Germany cared? David Odonkor, Gerald Asamoah (the team DJ) and Lukas Podolski linked up to sing a 40-year German classic by Drafi Deutscher and everyone sang along.

Loosely translated, the song speaks about how marble, stone and steel can be broken but not someone’s love. Days after his death, it was a fitting tribute to a man who is a legend here.

It was an appropriate exchange of love and gratitude between the national team and its fans. At the country’s most famous landmark. Everyone in the German squad, the backroom staff included, wore T-shirts which said Danke Deutschland in front and 82 million at the back. That’s Germany’s population and they were saying ‘thank you’ to each one of them. This was their response to the Danke Jungs that could be seen from Stuttgart to here and from Lepizig to Cologne.

At Sunday’s function to felicitate the national team, Danke Jungs was rivalled only by ones that said Bitte Klinsi bleib (please, Klinsman stay).  Michael Ballack’s confidence that Klinsmann will stay too is being interpreted as subtle pressure tactics by the skipper.

In a country of whose list of great footballers could fill up a telephone directory, Klinsmann’s popularity is now surpassed only by Beckenbauer. People are pleading he stay and Sunday’s Der Tagesspeigel even ran a poll asking whether he should be made the honorary citizen of Berlin.

Long before the red German team bus reversed past the World of Football Museum, giant screens on different parts of the Fan Mile, which leads to the Gate, showed clippings of Klinsmann the player and followed them up with his joy at every German goal scored since June 9.

Famous TV anchor Monica Leerhaus took the opportunity to ask Klinsmann whether he was staying. The crowd may have thought Klinsmann would be taken in by the occasion and say yes — it is difficult to stay calm when thousands get into the ‘To Sir with Love’ mood — but the coach again asked for time.

“We have had a great party last night and one for the past four weeks. For us, it ends with this. You people (the fans) have been fantastic but we are all very tired and I need a few days to decide (Germany play Ireland next in a European championship qualifier on September 2),” Klinsmann said.

And Leerhaus quipped: “That’s an improvement from wanting a few weeks to decide.”

Everything on the street of 17 Juni reverberated to the sound of music and celebration for almost three hours. Some fainted in the heat but for most, it seemed that the party which began in Stuttgart after Schweinsteiger shut out Portugal, had travelled north.

Xavier Naidoo, a famous soul-singer here, sang Dieser Weg (The Way) which was adapted as the team theme and the squad joined him. The Sportfreunde Stiller band, whose links with Bayern Munich players have led them to write “Ich Roque” as a tribute to Roque Santa Cruz, then sang what seemed like the national anthem since the World Cup began.

“54, 74, 90, 2006” was released in January and has been on the top of the charts here for the last five weeks.

Set to a lively tune, the song accepts Germans don’t play perfect football but with a master plan, will create a sensation by winning at home. The lyrics were reworked to include 2010 now.

Everyone lustily relived Phillip Lahm’s right-footer which set the hosts going to Schweinsteiger’s strikes on Saturday. Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero’s goals in Dortmund seemed like an ad-break with the sound put on hold.

The goalkeepers led the walk to the ramp, followed by the defenders, midfielders and strikers. Team shirts were thrown and everyone tried to be Lehmann, Kahn and Hildebrand when the stars kicked footballs into the crowd. Everyone except the hunks who had hoisted their girls on their shoulders to give them a better view.

Christoph Metzelder thanked his coach for the opportunity to be part of another World Cup and said, “This reaction didn’t compare to what we got four years ago.” On crutches, Per Mertesacker said, “I just had to be here.” Ballack came last and asked Lehmann for his speech, which the goalie took out of his socks. As the crowd roared with laughter, the skipper said, “You guys are fantastic.”

About that, there could be no argument. “Germany fans champions of the world,” a poster said. That too was a no-contest.