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The victory in defeat

While the Roman Gods are surely grinning, the German dream is broken, writes Varupi Jain.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2006 13:49 IST

While the Roman Gods are surely grinning, the German dream is broken. As are millions of German hearts. And I hate to see this. Not because of my association with Germany and Germans.

But because I believe that the unparalleled nasha of the millions of ueber-enthusiastic citizens of the most perfect host nation deserved at least a chance at the finals. Is that asking for too much?

Come, let's face it. Almost everyone across the globe agrees one way or the other that this has been one of the most memorable World Cups of recent times. The whether was splendid. The logistics spoke of the German attention to detail. Hooliganism was minimal.

This World Cup will also be remembered for how it eventually became a rather Schengen affair. How the Africans, Asians and even the Latinos had to make do with watching the Italians, Portuguese, French and the Germans fight out a rather European battle. 

But above all, this was a World Cup to be remembered not just for the sporting delight but for what Germany made of the soccer experience.

The Germans, with their famed sense of efficiency, punctuality and organization, made an art of managing millions of fans effortlessly. More significantly perhaps, their openness, hospitality and simply-fun attitude put in the right perspective many stereotypes about the Germans.

As an American tourist, Margaret Mitchell, who flew in especially for the World Cup puts it, "I was in for a huge surprise. There is a Mediterranean feel to everything in Germany -- to the whether, the warmth in the people, the celebrations, just everything. Like many Americans, I think I had misunderstood Germany.

I am glad this World Cup was here. We came here for Soccer but we got a wonderful tourist-experience as a bonus. I am sure I will return to Germany only as a tourist since there is so much to explore here."

And that is the point. The USP of Soccer this season was Germany. People came in as fans of football but returned as fans of Germany as well. Indeed, it is so hard not to fall in love with cities, landscapes and atmosphere, which has something for everyone.

If I ask myself which of the 12 host cities is my favourite - it will be an impossible choice to make. How can you not like Berlin. How can you not like a city which feels like a piece of art that intermingles time.

Where a boulevard takes you twenty years forward and the next by-lane half a century backwards. It is a city meant for creating, writing and editing history -- the history of Berlin, the history of Germany, of Europe and the World in fact, and now the history of Soccer surprises, perhaps.

The soccer month and its finale in Berlin make you cringe at the limited stock of superlatives in the English language. In the area around the Bradenburg Gate -- the symbol not just of divided and unified Berlin but also of Germany itself -- the fan fest was celebrated in an area covering 77,000 square meters -- the size of 12 football pitches, with 234 square meters of video screens set up in four different places.

The state of Berlin meticulously tracks the logistics -- a team of 500 people set up and dismantled all that was needed for the Fan Fest. 40 tractor-trailers of 40 tons each were used for transporting equipment and material to the fan area. 250 mobile toilets were available and were cleaned daily.

Coming back to the German USP that the American tourist above pointed to, she is right, Germany can easily take any tourist for a surprise. Take Frankfurt for instance.

The largest financial centre on the continent but also the smallest metropolis in the world; the city of Goethe and the thinkers of the Frankfurt School -- it is a city where sushi and cider sit back to back. Where fancy towers stand next to the old city exuding medieval charm.

Or Leipzig. The creative home of Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner, the setting for a scene of Goethe's Faust, birthplace of GDR dictator Walter Ulbricht, victim of Allied bombing and Communist urban planning, a thriving university city with a dynamic arts scene - that is Leipzig.

St. Nicholas Church was particularly popular among the thousands of visitors that Leipzig received. Closely linked to Bach, this church is now more famous as the starting point of the peaceful revolution of 1989 which set the stage for German reunification.

What I read recently about Leipzig is as true as it is profound - "you'll find that Leipzig has the urban and the urbane in equal measure. It's a city with ambitions, but not pretensions. A place on the move, but not in a hurry".

Isn't all this quite a bonus for the football fans? But I guess, the bottom-line is what Arnulf Wirth, a close follower of the month long spectacle points out. "It was a very refreshing experience in our common European history, that one could retain one's national loyalty and yet extend openness, friendship and hospitality to others". An exciting form of globalisation came alive which celebrated 32 leading teams from across the world, he adds. 
And a loud Prost to the Germans for making all this possible -- and how! Indeed, for Germany, it was a neat game in which victory was the only possibility.