Laura Adams regularly carries a bag decorated like a German flag, but that’s nothing compared to how the 72-year-old and her husband plan to dress up today: face painted in red, yellow, and black and similarly-themed scarves, to cheer on Germany’s soccer team as it faces off against the US in the World Cup.
“Americans want to win everything,” says her husband, Peter Adams, who was born in Berlin.
“The US has everything. Hollywood, money, weapons, let us have at least football,” says Ms. Adams, who was born in Canada and knows well how it feels to be eclipsed by the US. “The Americans don’t even use the right word.”
And if the US does prevail over Germany in the much awaited soccer match in Recife, Brazil, she adds, it will only be because the American team’s coach happens to be German.
Jürgen Klinsmann, in fact, is a very familiar face in Germany. A Stuttgart native, he was a star striker for both the West German and unified German national teams in the 1990s. And he coached Germany during their World Cup campaign in 2006.
German ties run throughout the US squad as well. Four players were born in Germany, including Jermaine Jones, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, and Timmy Chandler, while Julian Green was born in the US but raised in Germany. Their mothers are all Germans; their fathers American servicemen.
As the Miami Herald put it: “It is safe to say there has never been a team in tournament history with so many members who could belt out every word of the opposing anthem.”
That German-American mélange is a reality for many in Germany, especially in the south and west of the country where Americans were based during and after World War II. “We have an identification with the US,” says Stefan Gerlach, a banker from Bavaria who was visiting Berlin on business the day before the game. But his wife is from Berlin and she and her family have a “very different opinion,” he says. “Anti-Americanism is deeply ingrained in their minds.”
That anti-Americanism has been at new heights in the past year. The NSA spying scheme that was revealed by Edward Snowden drew national condemnation in Germany, which is perhaps the European nation most sensitive to privacy rights, a legacy of Stasi spying in communist Germany.
Some Germans have also felt bullied by the US in the crisis with Russia over Ukraine. They’ve resented the US pushing them to take a harsher stance against Russia, especially when Germany and many other European nations have so much more to lose when it comes to Russian interests than the US does.
But soccer, or shall we say football, is where the Germans have the upper hand. Michael Jussen, a 17-year-old eating lunch in a mall in Berlin, says that the US might have more political and economic clout, “but when it comes to football, the Germans dominate.”
And of course, he says, the German team will prevail. “The US is not a big soccer nation. Everyone thinks we are so good, and if we lost, it would be embarrassing. We wouldn’t want to lose our prestige.”
The cashier behind the register in a soccer store at the same mall, who only gives his first name Caspar, says that a match against a European or Latin American team is a much bigger deal for German fans, but that so many Germans are on the US team does make the game more interesting. He doesn’t, however, think it will be a game-changer. There might be two German coaches on the field in Recife Thursday. “But the German team’s German coach is the better one,” he says. “It’s obvious who is going to win.”