It is at times like these that I question my identity. Am I an American? Am I becoming German? Or am I something in between? And on Thursday night my identity will be split for one hour and thirty minutes as Germany and the US battle it out to move on to the Achtelfinale of the World Cup.
I love football. As a child, my first team experience was on the football pitch. Wearing purple and gold reversible jerseys, my teammates and I bunched together, unable to move the ball anywhere towards the goal. The more our coach screamed at us, “Stop Bunching!” the tighter the pack around the ball became. It took a season for our troop of 2nd graders to figure out how to play. We stayed together until our 10th grade year of high school.
Eventually football became my game. In fact, you could say that my growing up was defined by it. Those years were punctuated by three months of games as the weather turned from summer to fall to winter. The game strengthened my friendships and my ability to work with others. It strengthened both my physical and mental stamina. No one will forget those slide tackles on fields covered in Canadian Goose droppings or the freezing rain and wind during playoff games with teammates on the sideline huddled in garbage bags for warmth.
I was single-mindedly devoted to football, no other sport really interested me. And this is where I seem to resemble a German. In America, kids are pushed to be four season athletes. There are other sports in Germany, but nothing compares with football. Seemingly, no child here overloads themselves with sports activities hoping to become a star. Children here devote themselves to one sport and usually that sport is football.
Living here in Germany I can get my fill of football. I know every player on the German squad, but I have to struggle to name two American players…Dempsey and ? I don’t follow any particular team closely, but I do have a love-hate relationship with Bayern-München. I equate them with the Yankees. I love the stars of the team, but hate the brand that the team name has become. And during the Bundesliga or Champions League finals I root for whoever is playing against Bayern.
And don’t think that the German’s are happy about this match up on Thursday. They love Klinsmann. The idea that a German football hero could pull together a ragtag group of players and make them into a world class team is very appealing to them. Germans want to see Klinsi succeed, but not at the cost of their own team losing their chances for their place in the Achtefinale.
Who should I choose to support on Thursday night? The team I know and love? Or the team that represents the country where my love of football began?
Who will you root for this Thursday? What is your favorite football memory?
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