Bullet to the Net

Speaking of al-Maliki, well – no, dropping his name, basically, as I was doing and really no more than that, but – the Iraqi football national team won the Asian Cup yesterday, in a 1:0-win over Saudi Arabia. The final was played in Jakarta (Indonesia). People in Iraq celebrated the triumph. Also, people in Iraq died when bullwhipped suicide bombers exploited the situation – thousands of people crowding on the streets of Baghdad, –

The crowds briefly regained Baghdad’s streets from the gunmen, dancing to patriotic songs, waving the flag, and shooting into the air.

US army helicopters wisely interrupted their regular flyovers of the capital until the partying had stopped. (The Guardian)

– intoxicated over their team’s really quite spectacular success (they kicked out South Korea in the semi-finals, ranked considerably higher in the Fifa ranking [South Korea is at 58, Saudi Arabia at 61, Iraq is at 80] and so is Saudi Arabia, of course ) – and killed dozens of people, around 50 after last Wednesday’s win over South Korea.

Not one of the players on the Iraqi national squad plays at a Bundesliga side (although Bielefeld were just recently rumored [the guy on the photograph is Ernst Middendorp, Arminia Bielefeld’s coach, not Hawar] to look into signing Hawar Mohammed) – still, it makes me think.

Here in Germany, football is generally and by common agreement so definitely and only and exclusively a game, and just that – that is, politics are to be kept away from the pitch, and you won’t see clubs supporting any explicit political alignment oftheir fan base. That is not to say it doesn’t happen – especially (though not nearly exclusively) teams in East Germany have strong right-wing influences on the stands.

Still, basically, and at least as far as professional league football is concerned, match day is an opportunity to probe just how far rage, hatred, and intensity can go without starting a revolution or any political movement on any level. The most intense of these non-revolutionary experiences, for me, have usually come over the years in our matches against the league’s arch villains, FC Bayern München (I shall be damned if I directly supply them traffic in any way, so no link here). My side, FC Nürnberg, bless it, has its issues with the über-team from Munich – mostly because they have shoved us from the throne of absolute dominance in German football.

Growing up with the team involved, for the most part, a subtle maneuver between the glories of former days (nine championships, 3 cup wins, streaks of unbeaten games so long the sheer possibility of losing was a merely theoretical construct) and the embarassing pain of the present (six relegations, including one into third league football, plenty of amateurish players, ridiculously bad football that even a regular MLS game looks like the thrill of a century in comparison) – but however hard to bear it was at times, fans always stood firmly united against the Munich side – and the one notorious slogan you could always hear at the derbies, twice a season, even now that we’re are way better off again, run – Tod und Hass dem FCB (Death and Hatred to the FCB), often combined with some affirmation of Franconian independence – Franconia as opposed to loathed Bavaria, the grander unit on the political map, of which Franconia is a part.

There is a whole pseudo-political jargon arisen from that very intense rivalry – I remember talking to friends about the Bavarian occupying forces and their propaganda tv station (Bavarian Broadcasting – generally favorable to the Munich side, but not to us: or so it is said).

Now, seeing the news line on the Iraqi victory, the violence it inspired, as well as the joy, and the implications it might have (Iraq has a very real chance of facing the USA national team on the 2009 Confederations Cup, for which it qualified with its win) – I feel reminded that a) football is never a-political, that b) it is decadently foolish to even approach it in a fake-political way, and that c) I will henceforth refrain from refering, in the football context (not that I would do it anywhere else) to Bavaria as an occupying power like I mean it.


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