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John Riceburg: The World Cup must die

An open letter to Germany: Sure, we've had some great times together. This Fußball obsession, however, is turning into a deal-breaker for me.

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Photo by János Balázs (Flickr CC)

Dear Germany,

We need to talk. Sure, we’ve had some great times together. I love your free universities and your lefty bars. We’ve had some issues, like your racist immigrations laws, but I feel we can work on those. This Fußball obsession, however, is turning into a deal-breaker for me.

Now this isn’t an American thing: it’s true I’m not that one US soccer fan. I also don’t care for baseball, basketball, hockey or any other homoerotic gladiator fights. But I’ve learned to tune that stuff out.

Waltzing through your streets these days, though, past all the drunken slobs decked out in schwarz-rot-gold and screaming ‘Schland!, I’m sure this Cup is worse than all other forms of sportsing combined.

You didn’t used to be like this! When my gaze fell on your capital in the early 2000s, I was happy to see only four German flags in the whole city – all on the Bundestag. It was a welcome relief coming from a US decked out in red, white and blue.

But you have been accumulating flags in the public sphere since the World Cup in 2006. Now, I can’t even visit one of your Spätis without being overwhelmed by this threatening tricolor.

BAIZ features anti-national football matches – their staff even told me to remove a jacket with a Cuban flag on it. But that’s a small island of rationality in a sea of jingoism. Even at RAW-Tempel, you surrounded me with “Public Viewings” and plastic garlands. Even my favorite hipster bar in Neukölln was full of customers with painted cheeks.

This big, nationalistic orgy isn’t good for anyone. (They tell us it’s not Nationalismus, it’s Patriotismus, as if those two words weren’t synonyms.) We taxpayers get to pay €300,000 for Merkel to fly to Brazil and take a picture with “our boys”. This is to create a gooey feeling of “us” against “them” – and while we’re staring at the TV, our rulers are passing horrible laws. They are planning to vote to allow fracking, raise taxes on solar energy, and let former minister Ronald Pofalla become a lobbyist for the Deutsche Bahn.

On Sunday, I was talking to a new father about when children learn to swim. “Black children probably don’t ever learn,” he spitted out. What? That’s not just racist, it’s also kind of silly. “Well, I’m just upset about last night”, he added. Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. So 11 guys you never met and never will were sportsing against another 11 guys. But the first group had the same flag on their shirts that you have in your passport, and the second didn’t. And since both groups sportsed equally well, you’re now so upset that we should let racist remarks slip? I can’t blame you, my heart was racing just writing these sentences.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. A woman from Gabon was insulted and attacked in Friedrichshain just after the German team tied with Ghana. And we haven’t talked about the misogyny of treating the female partners of these 11 men like fashion accessories. We haven’t even started with the horrible things going on in Brazil, which is spending billions on useless stadiums and expelling poor people from their homes.

But you get the idea. This whole thing just isn’t working out for me. Germany, you can be a model of Vulkan rationality. But your attitude towards Fußball has gotten out of control. You need help. Because it’s the World Cup, or me.

With deep concern,

John Riceburg