Live von der Insel - The English Football Column : Make Love Not War

England is falling in love with Germany for the first time. A combination of Jogi Löw's hair and Dortmund's PR machine has them in rapture ahead of tonight's international friendly. Our columnist traces the love story.

Joachim Löw (centre) enjoys the Bakerloo Line with Assistant Coach Hansi Flick (right) and striker Max Kruse (left).
Joachim Löw (centre) enjoys the Bakerloo Line with Assistant Coach Hansi Flick (right) and striker Max Kruse (left).Foto: dpa

You Germans. Every time you come to London, you are so charming, so delightfully quirky that you make us fall in love.

Take the Champions League Final. It was a sunny afternoon in May, England’s newspapers were preparing for the big game with a healthy dollop of casual xenophobia, and Londoners were dreading the influx of 100,000 German football fans. Everything was normal in the capital.

Then the vans started going past. Yellow and Black vans covered in slogans such as “Thank You For Giving Us The Game We Love”. Borussia Dortmund were actually flirting with the residents of London. And it worked. For the first time in 48 years, Londoners began to talk to each other. Indeed, they fell so much in love with Dortmund that chaos ensued. Dickensian street urchins went out and burned Mario Götze shirts outside King's Cross. English Defence League neo-fascists had “Echte Liebe” tattooed across their chests. Prince Philip bought a Pöhler cap. In the Middle East, Tony Blair was caught humming “Heja BVB” under his breath at an Israel-Palestine peace discussion.

Another example: yesterday the DFB did a lovely thing. They sent their beautiful, gifted players onto the Underground as they made their way to Wembley for a training session. London swooned again.

“Look how pretty Mats Hummels is,” they tittered.

“Look at that stylish neo-Mod Jogi Löw! I bet he doesn’t have a silly voice like Roy Hodgson”

“Which one is Roman Weidenfeller?”

“I’m not sure.”

And so on and so forth.

The DFB were adamant, of course, that this was not some cynical, Dortmundesque PR move to mark the 150th anniversary of the FA and the Tube. No, they proudly cooed from their website, this was simply a practical way of avoiding the congested streets of London. The players agreed, before happily stepping onto the Jubilee Line and arriving six hours late for their training session due to a signal failure at Finchley Road.

Who knows where this charm offensive will end? In April, Bayern will be drawn against Manchester United in the Champions League Quarter Finals, and Uli Hoeneß will unveil a statue of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer outside Old Trafford. Then in May, Schalke will play Chelsea in the Final and once again gallantly allow them to score three goals. England will fall irrevocably in love, and David Cameron will, by popular demand, divorce Samantha and propose to Angela Merkel.

Alas, that is a mere pipe nightmare. But we are not quite so far away from true love. While our tabloids still proclaim this to be “one of the oldest and biggest rivalries in football”, and Wayne Rooney is mumbling about how special it would be to beat the Germans, most of England have realised that Germany doesn’t give a damn about beating England. For the first time in its history, English football is genuinely in awe of another country. And, true, to the long British tradition of self-irony, that country turns out to be Germany.

50+1, terraces and Jogi Löw's lego hair have seen to that. But don’t get too comfortable. For I have a feeling that this is a mere crush. If, at any point, there is a dodgy decision, an on field scrap or indeed an England victory, the phoney friendship will be over, and it will be back to business as usual. And rest assured, Wembley shall mention the war.

Kit Holden (@kitholden) is English and is currently working as an intern at Tagesspiegel-Sport. He also writes on German football for The Independent.


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