as you might have heard in the media Austria (and the Swiss) are currently hosting the FIFA European Football [Soccer] Championship. One of the cities where plays are held being the city where I live, Vienna.
One should know that I already had to survive the FIFA World Championship 2006 in Germany where I, who’s never been a fan of extatic fandom save football, got enough of it for the rest of my life. The German cities and especially their cars (often referred to as their “favourite children”) looked like Israel on Yom Ha’azmaout: Every centimeter covered in black-red-gold German flags. And of course public life broke down every time a match was fought, especially but not only if it involved the German team. I remember once being the only person in the whole library just because of a match taking place …
And of course I remember what happened afterwards: Hordes of fans taking over the town making noise with every means they could lay hand on and often partying until sometime late late at night thereby keeping everybody else from sleeping with their noise and chants.
So now the circus has moved to Austria and the government and organisers have made a considerable effort to get the host citys’ inhabitants in the right mood. For instance in winter they would distribute free copies of a football-related novel. I mean like hundreds of thousands of copies everywhere in the subway. I am not sure I’d want to know how much money was spent for that (Though I guess it’s still better then buying some more lantern tubes for Gaza that tend to mystically blow up vanish there).
However it was not only a German classmate of mine who complained that she had hardly met any Austrians that were actually looking forward to the championship but rather those who were looking forward to its end whilst she was put in frenzy from the pure idea of another experience like Germany 2006 (obviously she’s one of the thousands who just ignored that football’s about nothing then a ball and joined the collective ecstasy within the public viewing areas and fan zones). I too felt that Austrians weren’t all too excited about it.
While of course a part of the problem is the Austrian football team (we e.g. managed to loose against the Faroer Island’s team 0:9 followed by other more or less heroic matches), which’s little less then a serious cause for national shame I have come to think of another reason that is less nice for the Germans as great as they were as hosts. Well actually there’s even three:
- In difficult times people tend to hide themselves in what appears to be a happy world. As could be seen with the Islandic elves-believe seeing a rebirth in the 17th and 18th century or, more widely known, with the whole partying culture that took place at the beginning of the last century and partially even during the world wars. It’s a simple yet working mechanism of protection. And actually now that I think about it I’d consider the very active nightlife scene of Tel Aviv partially triggered by that kind of mechanism. However when it comes to Germany and the Football Championship I suppose this could have been true for Germany too for I remember these times as such being regarded as hard times by major parts of the population. The unemployment rate was skyrocketing and there didn’t seem to be a lot of possibilities for the youth. No wonder they happily took refuge at a global spectacle that made them forget their problems for a while.
- Like it nor not but the Germans seem to have a record on liking mass movements. They just enjoy themselves if they can do something in a huge crowd and if it is very clear what it is all about. One thing I feel Germans can’t stand is having something that is unclear: They need to regulate everything to pure ridicule. I guess that’s why they are so in love with their application forms. With football it’s a really clear issue: There’s your team and then there’s another team. You want your team to win and the other team to loose. Period.
- And then there’s that German nationalism issue. And thereby I don’t aim at too much German nationalism but rather at the opposite. Normally German’s aren’t allowed to feel proud for their country at all. It’s not enough if you make it clear as a German that you feel disgusted by the period of the Nationalsocialst’s reign but you aren’t allowed to be a patriot at all. To feel that you are part of a nation that has too done good things (just have a look at Germany’s contribution to the end of the Cold War for instance!). Now during the world championship it was just the other way round: Being a patriot and waving German flags all of a sudden was trendy and the Germans of course reacted in the same way everybody reacts at something he’s always wanted to do but never was allowed to: They absolutely overdid it.
Now with Austria none of those facts are given. Our economy and society of course suffers from the usual Western problems but it is not even quite as bad as it was in Germany in 2006. Plus the Austrian nature is more of the kind of hiding indoors and keeping politics to others (which can end up being just as fatal). And of course in Austria it is completely normal to identify with the great moments of our history; the times of the monarchy and – of course – Sissi. We don’t need to jump on the one chance to show off we are Austrian.
So what happend shouldn’t be a surprise to you anymore: The fan zones and public viewing areas aren’t even half as crowded as they were expected to. That put together with horrible expensive prices for beer (€ 4,50 per 0,5 liter if I am not misstaken) put the booth owners, who have to pay enourmous rent, in serious troubles. One owner reported that instead of the promised 20 barrels of beer he only made it to 2 a day lately.
Meanwhile I have learnt to enjoy the bright side of the medal: Austrians too tend to abandon everything to watch the championship on TV. So during the championship matches you can all of a sudden go all the places you have never dared to because there were such huge crowds. The city is empty … it’s almost scary …
Well two and a half more weeks to go and at least two more chances for the Austrian team to embarrass us. 😉