Those of you who witnessed what went down at the World Cup between Germany and Brazil on Tuesday know that this is no regular occurrence; it is essentially unheard of for any team in the game of soccer to score more than the average two or three goals — needless to say, seven goals is nearly impossible.

 

Ye, the German team pulled off the unthinkable; within the first three minutes of the game, Germany had scored three goals. By minute six, they had four, and at halftime, the score read 5-nil. Not only did they create the highest scoring game many avid soccer-followers have seen (this writer, included), clocking out with a whopping seven goals to Brazil’s one, history was made. One of Germany’s key players, Miroslav Klose, scored his sixteenth World Cup goal, breaking the record for most goals scored in the World Cup ever. This game, quite a tragedy for the Brazilian home team, certainly gave the Germans something to celebrate: likely the best national team since the 1990’s.

 

12:00 a.m. in Germany — all at once, the entire country bursts into celebration; the streets flood with cars, and people in head-to-toe Germany national team gear cheer, sing, and high five each other between their cars and on the street. In Hamburg, a sizable city towards the North of the country — the Kiez or the “Reeperbahn” — was alive with cheers and chants of “finale!” and “‘Schland!” (a comical abbreviation for Deutschland). This is a highly political area of the city and the exact collection of streets where most of the action in the city happens at night, and the people in the streets waved the black, red, and gold of the German flag proudly, sported their jerseys and face-paint unapologetically and joined together, strangers and friends, to celebrate the raw talent driven triumph of their home team and country.

 

In America, it may be hard for us to appreciate the significance of this; we celebrate our country more than we celebrate our own birthday, and it is not uncommon to see displays of national pride through American flags in people’s yards, cars, on T-shirts, and even jerseys supporting local teams (Go Ravens!). However in Germany, this is for the most part, verboten. It is not illegal, of course, but it is, however, highly uncommon to see these displays of national pride through German flags and other paraphernalia on any regular day. The reason for this is the obvious, unavoidable elephant in the room that is Germany’s history.

 

People in Germany have to face the reality of their nation’s past on a daily basis. The Holocaust happened nearly 70 years ago and since then the German people have had to deal with the reality that a tragedy of such unfathomable magnitude happened on their home soil. It is a difficult fact to face when your country has such a stain on its national identity that you yourself are not held directly accountable for, yet you are also fully aware that the blame, in part, lies on you indirectly and on your country at large. With this, comes an overwhelming sense of responsibility.

 

A 17-year-old local of Hamburg, a high school student and hopeful future UN Ambassador put it like this: “As a German you have a great responsibility; you have to be very sensitive and very conscious about your historical responsibility and you have to be very politically correct because of the ugliness of the national history.” So then how exactly does a country move on under these circumstances?

 

This is where the World Cup comes in. Football is a temporary remedy from the ills of any given country; for Germany in particular it is a chance to show national pride and unite — to rejoice (and sometimes despair) in something together for a little while without the shadow of crushing historical guilt. During the World Cup, the German people bring out their flags and decorations and playfully root for their home team, a group of boys that they can be really proud of and share in the experience together.

 

Football provides the same sense of national unity and community for all participating teams. All you need to do is look at any team during their national anthem; each player swells up with pride for their country, tears come to their eyes, and they are so clearly swept up in the moment and the magnitude of what they are doing. This pride and emotion proves the power that soccer, a silly and beautiful game, can have on people. In this way, soccer and the World Cup in general is a very powerful and globally important event; it connects people both within and between countries across the globe and creates a cause for celebration.

 

What are your thoughts about the spirit and impact of the World Cup? About national pride and identity? Share your thoughts in the comments below or shoot me a tweet @JenksUOhMeASoda