Friday, June 30, 2006

"Do you remember Walter...?"

England is not the only country to indulgently wallow in World Cup nostalgia.
Germany may have won the trophy three times to our sole success.
But for England’s 1966, read West Germany’s 1954 – and for Bobby Moore, see Fritz Walter.
Black-and-white images still surround, of the first German side to win the trophy – a surge of sporting optimism in a land still struggling with post-war reconciliation.
As elsewhere and anywhere, football provides a cherished, collective folk-history – the game remains the same, only the special dates, names and golden moments differ.
The heroes of 1954 can still be seen in public monuments, on big and small screen in archive and dramatised form – and even, this summer, in MTV pop videos.
Herbert Zimmermann’s climactic radio commentary, ‘Das Spiel ist aus!’ (‘The match is over!’) is the German equivalent of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s ‘They think it’s all over – it is now!’.
Just try mischievously suggesting German football began with Beckenbauer or Bert Trautmann – and see how swiftly you can reach the border.
For official purposes, only three of the 12 World Cup stadia have been allowed to use their real names.
Commercial sponsors such as Allianz, AOL and Kommerzbank have been censored.
But the Fritz Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern is a protected species – much like the man himself.
Walter captained the West German side that beat favourites Hungary in the 1954 final, having lost 8-3 to the same side in an earlier round.
He died during Germany’s run to the 2002 final – and the anniversary was marked with a minute’s silence during this year’s tournament.
His memory also hovered over Germany’s match against Sweden, rivals since an ill-tempered semi-final in the 1958 World Cup that ended Walter’s career.
Now canny brewers in Kaiserslautern, where he spent his entire career, have produced their own tribute - ‘Fritz-Walter-Bier’, an eight-euro bottle-and-beerglass combination.
How fortunate for brewers Bischoff, that Kaiserslautern hosted those un-abstemious Australians not once but twice.
Walter was said to save his best for when the weather was bad – the wetter ‘das Wetter’, the better.
Becks – the sickly footballer, not the beer – and his sun-stricken England colleagues would welcome a forecast of ‘Fritz-Walter-Wetter’ this weekend.

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