When it comes to sports, Europe is a whole other world.
What I think of as football is “American football” here (or even, jokingly, handegg). Soccer is football. It takes some getting used to.
I hadn’t even heard of the Eurocup (a.k.a. the Euros) when we moved here. Like many Americans, I barely follow the World Cup when it comes around. A notable exception was on our honeymoon last year. We bonded with some fellow Americans in Antigua watching the US women’s team win a world title.
I didn’t realize how big this tournament is until one of my German colleagues joked at an all department meeting that their project better be done before the Euros. To give some perspective, the Eurocup only happens every four years, alternating with the World Cup, and is nearly as prestigious. The rivalries are fierce. For my (American) football readers: imagine the Packers vs. the Bears in the playoffs, except the playoffs are four years apart, Wisconsin and Illinois are countries, and they’ve been at war off and on for a few hundred years.
Living in Europe during the Eurocup: if ever there is a time to get into football, this is it. I asked by team at work where I could watch. They said everywhere. They weren’t kidding.
Germany is so into football that every game is live streamed on their TV networks’ sites for free. Finally a reason for our obligatory TV tax! In Berlin, many restaurants have outdoor seating. Practically all of them set up at least one TV outside so guests can watch while they eat and drink. Even the Spätis (tiny convenience stores open late with drinks and snacks) set up TVs and chairs and are decked out in Germany’s colors so people from the neighborhood can grab a drink and watch the game. Katarina and I once went on a walk during a game, but I didn’t miss any of the action by racing between the shops showing it to catch the big moments.
We watched most of the games from the comfort of our home, but when Germany made it to the quarter finals I knew I had to watch the game surrounded by drunk Germans. I was not disappointed.
I headed for the Kulturbrauerei (an outdoor cultural center/brewery), thinking I was safe getting there an hour and a half before the match. Wrong. There was only standing room remaining. By the time the it started, it was absolutely packed with Germans and a few brave Italians. I could hardly see the screen through the crowd. When Germany scored, the crowd went absolutely nuts. Beer everywhere. When things went wrong, I would hear cries of Mensch! and Scheiße! Tied 1:1 after 90 minutes, it went into overtime. Still tied, it went to penalties. The atmosphere was intense. Dead silence from the crowd when Italy scored. Raucous cheering when Germany scored. In a nearby park, someone was setting off fireworks with every German goal. After one of the longest shoot outs in Euros history (18 penalties), Germany triumphed and the city practically imploded. More fireworks. Katarina told me later that the bar under our apartment was so loud she worried they collectively had a heart attack. And then exploded.
Unfortunately, Germany’s hopes came crashing down yesterday as they were defeated by France. The mood in the office today was sombre, like a tragedy had struck. But I’m still looking forward to watching the finals, and there’s always the World Cup in 2 years (but of course, I’ll be cheering for America then).
Los geht’s Deutschland, kämpfen und siegen!
Next on the blog: Rome in Photos