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Football Fancy: True and Make-Believe Nationalism

Published: June 29, 2012 | 6:54 am
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Football is inseparably linked to nationalism.

During every World and Euro Cup, football fans of each participating country can be seen dressed in the jerseys of their national teams and proudly waving their country’s flags. For a couple of weeks every two years, entire nations come together as one, and football is suddenly all that counts – political and economical problems become redundant, if only for a while.

They comfort each other and cry together when the dream is over, and they party like there’s no tomorrow when their team advances.

And of course, there are the usual quips and taunts towards the other teams and countries, which is – if it’s not getting out of hand – as much part of this game as Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant.

I have loved the German national football team since I was a kid, not because they played beautifully or because I admired one player in particular. I loved the team because that’s just the way it is.

Growing up in a football-loving nation whose team has brought home quite a few trophies over the years, there simply is no other choice for me (despite holding sympathies for other teams as well, I’d never choose any country above Germany when it comes to football).

It doesn’t matter if the Germans play great or crappy. They will have my support no matter what.

As we all know, Indonesians are football-crazy as well. Unfortunately, the country’s football team is still far from gaining success on an international level. That is why, I presume, many football fans here pick a country they will support during the big tournaments. It’s more than understandable: they want to be part of the whole football frenzy, too – and it is so much more fun if you have a team to root for than being a neutral observer.

What astonished me over the last three weeks, however, is how far this support for a foreign country goes, a country that is not even your own.

“I will not congratulate the Germans on winning group B because they beat my country, the Netherlands,” one Indonesian I know posted on Twitter after the Dutch were sent home without winning a single match.

My country? Hardly.

“We are going to crush the Germans tonight, and make them cry like babies,” another one wrote.

We? Who is this “we” this friend of mine is speaking of? I know for a fact that there is not a single drop of Italian blood running through his veins.

I know an Indonesian girl who is such a big fan of Portugal, that she was inconsolable after the lost penalty shootout against Spain. Her exact words were: “I’m ready to kill myself, my life is over.”

Drama queen much?

I don’t think I’d ever be able to become so involved, so passionate and so nationalistic about a country I don’t even come from.

But then again, I never had to. Maybe, if Germany wasn’t the football nation it is, I would be a die-hard fan of Spain. No, scratch that. Just typing those words simply felt ridiculous.

However, the trials and tribulations also go the other way.

I have a German friend, who takes every defeat of the national team as a personal insult. After Germany lost to Spain in the semifinals in South Africa 2010, he was angry for weeks, and I suspect that this time won’t be any different.

Watching Italy beat Germany last night was a heartbreaking affair for me, for sure. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love those boys anymore. It also doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the last three weeks tremendously.

Germany played a good tournament, and if you take a look on the substitutes, you will notice that there are still many young players that didn’t get their chance yet but will only become stronger in the coming years.


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