Michael Horeni handled matters for the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. Tammo Blomberg, among a quartet of writers who wrote a live blog for Hamburg’s “die Zeit”, took care of a post-match synopsis for one of the most popular weeklies among Germans.
Neither commentator could resist working the general mood of Germans about the tournament into their pieces.
As German public broadcaster ARD continued its World Cup coverage following Germany’s 1-2 loss to Japan earlier in the day, a comprehensive piece on the state of attendance at public viewing and pub attendance during the Germany fixture showed mostly empty seats all across the country. German flags remain conspicuously absent from the streets of the Bundesrepublik. By contrast, “Boycott Qatar” stickers can be found on almost every lamppost.
There were still naturally plenty of German football fans who filtered into pubs to watch their national team play, even if those who did turn in had little trouble finding places to sit. After what transpired on the pitch on Wednesday afternoon, however, some speculated aloud whether the death knell for Germany’s “WM-Stimmung” (“World Cup Mood”) had already sounded.
The DFB team’s pre-kickoff gesture in part of the “OneLove” armband controversy received some praise in the country’s press and on social media. There was nevertheless no shortage of public pundits and private citizens who felt the protest action silly, shallow, insufficient, or even a wholly needless distraction.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung columnist Michael Horeni was one critic.
“The Germans’ first defeat at the World Cup in Qatar was perfect, bowing to FIFA without a fight before the first ball had been played,” Horeni wrote in an opinion piece appearing on the FAZ website, “The Germans could have made a statement, but for this they would have had to have taken a risk.”
“They were not prepared to do that,” Horeni continued, “And with their helpless gesture, they only showed that they keep their mouths shut when it counts. Before kickoff, the national players stood there like obedient little children. After the final whistle, empty-handed. These were two lows from which the national team in Qatar will probably find it difficult to recover – or not recover at all.”
Horeni took care to spread the blame around, blaming the DFB itself for bringing the PR mess unto themselves by pushing for the armband in the first place. Squad captain and German footballing legend Manuel Neuer, according to Horeni, also put himself in a difficult position by first insetting that he still wanted to wear the armband, then immediately caving when his FA muzzled him.
“Even if successes against Spain and Costa Rica now follow, and then victories further down the line, the Germans can no longer trust that unbroken German heroic stories will once again emerge in Qatar,” Horeni concluded, “Right from the start, the Germans’ behavior both on and off the pitch was not right. After these dismal experiences, only one thing is certain: the national team needs more courage and determination.”
In the interest of balance, Horeni’s views are absolutely not reflective of the broader German populace. Outrage over the armband controversy may be the order of the day online, but few German football lovers one encounters on the streets and in public venues find it terribly relevant. Unfortunately, the sense the prevalence of such a perceived manufactured issue has served to further turn off a disengaged public.
P”erhaps the defeat even has a positive effect for the players,” Tammo Blomberg opined optimistically (and somewhat sardonically) in his post-match recap for Germany’s beloved “die Zeit” online newspaper, “Namely, that more is being said about sporting problems than about captain’s armbands.”
“There may now be a renewed discussion about whether the debate has inhibited the players,” Blomberg continued, “Only the footballers can answer this question. It is certain that, whenever Germany is not ‘in control’, the team is as susceptible to counterattacks as a FIFA official is to thick, brown envelopes.”
Bloomberg acknowledged that the German team at least did more than the English, Dutch, or Danes did to address the controversy. After joking that Nico Schlotterbeck (responsible for marking VfL Bochum’s Takuma Asano on Japan’s game-winning goal) “went all out on his World Cup boycott)”, Blomberg noted “Germany’s defensive issues have been around for four years, not since Monday.”
“The offensive play of the team [crossbar and post hits from Gündogan and Gnabry along with some fine saves from keeper Shuichi Gonda] can give Germans some hope for the rest of the group stage,” Blomberg concluded, “but Spain as the next opponent should give them less hope. It’s possible that you’ll have to cover your eyes rather than your mouth.”
The recap feature to the live blog written by Blomberg, Nico Horn, Christian Spiller, and Jens Wohlgemuth lead with the headline “Boycotting made easy”. The tagline, presumably okayed by the quartet, read “The German team helped out all those who didn’t want to have anything to do with the World Cup.”