For several decades we couldn’t really get along with the Germans. The reasons for that were of course the war (and the suspicion that they would start one again), their so-called arrogance and the fact that we regularly had a bad summer because we lost a football match at a final tournament against them, even though we kept telling ourselves we were the better team. Nowadays our image of the Germans has turned radically in many ways. We actually look up to them because of the way they got out of the economic crisis, their leading role in Europe, their tolerant behavior and even their attractive way of playing football. And so they’re suddenly not that arrogant anymore, we barely mention the war and we actually like to go more often to Germany on a holiday (read: Berlin) where we can see that the Germans are not so bad after all. How these changes in perception suddenly came into being? Let’s find out.
‘Mutti’ Merkel leads the way
While our own governments rarely make it to the last stop, the Germans have really stable ones with the same Chancellor since 2005, ‘Mutti’ Merkel. And it’s not only the stability of the political system which makes us a little bit jealous, but especially the fact that this Chancellor led her people more smoothly out of the crisis than our own Prime Minister and his governments. They are even going to implement a minimum wage, if the GroKo-deal (GroKo=Groβe Koalition) is accepted by the party members of SPD and CDU. In several aspects they were certainly more decisive than we, such as the reforms of the housing market and the strong cooperation between government and industry, which made Germany internationally more competitive. We have to give them credits for that.
Another political aspect which we admire is the fact that there is no German equivalent of the Dutch PVV, which is for many people the symbol of Dutch political degeneration. While the Germans have of course a really dark past, when it comes to radical right wing parties, they don’t have any real right-wing opposition in the German Bundestag nowadays. Where we, for several centuries, held on to the view that we were one of the most tolerant countries in the world it is within the last couple of years that we have to face the fact that we are probably not so tolerant as we would like to be seen with the PVV, facing our own dark slavery past, daily racism – for example violence against gay people (like Ashley North) and the preventive search of colored people by the police – and the latest discussion of ‘Black Pete’ as main examples. The Germans seem to have surpassed us in their tolerance.
From Hölzenbein to Özil
Germany is one of the big favorites to win the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They always have been one of the favorites because of their persistent attitude and their quality to score a goal in the last minute, but now they also play the game in a Dutch way (read: in the most beautiful way like we invented it). German football is like a modern version of the ‘Totaalvoetbal’ (total football) of Rinus Michels in which ball possession and the continuing changing of positions in the field are the main characteristics. Of course they are pretty lucky to have a golden generation with talented players like Özil, Schweinsteiger, Götze, Lahm, Reus etcetera, but they also try to implement this kind of game into their youth squads.
Therefore the new generation of players are technically gifted, they have the capacity to read the game and they have the awareness that football is more than the result alone. They can really entertain the audience nowadays, an audience which is bigger in the German stadiums, by number of supporters, than in any other country in the world. So let’s forget about the fact we were screwed by Hölzenbein’s schwalbe in 1974 and that Stefan Effenberg, Michael Tarnat, Lothar Matthäus, Oliver Kahn and Michael Ballack were several of the most uncongenial football players we have ever faced and that they were all German (read: Bavarian) by accident. Let’s watch and learn from German football and maybe at one day we can turn the lessons into our own advantage so we can relive the moment that a new Marco van Basten scores the decisive goal in a semi-final against Germany, preferably in Hamburg again.
Ohlala watch Mesut Özil’s master-skills. Always a delight.
Turning changing words into deeds
Fortunately the Dutch government is not blind to the fact that Germany is booming at the moment and so they took some initiatives to turn the advantages of a strong Germany into our advantage. One of the most important ones is an initiative from the Ministry of OCW, to convince Dutch students to go study in Germany and come back with a lot of knowledge about our neighbors which we can use for our own economic and political gain. This initiative is called the Duitslanddesk, which is part of the Germany Institute in Amsterdam, and where by accident I’m an intern. So now you see the true meaning of this article and the personal interest I have by writing it, which doesn’t mean that all of the abovementioned is nonsense. The goal of the Duitslanddesk is to persuade more Dutch students to go to Germany. Therefore they even have their own study grant and a new web portal www.studereninduitsland.nl, where you can find everything you need if you want to go to the neighbors we so much admire. I really love this introduction movie of the web portal by the way, which is actually made by a friend of mine. So, that’s enough advertising for now.
In conclusion we can say that the late Dutch admiration (most of the time in silence) of the Germans mainly seems to be related with the Dutch problematic self-image, a conclusion I politely stole from the columnist Nelleke Noordervliet. Germany is the nation we once were and would like to be again; tolerant, happy, economically successful and admired by its way of playing football. But all admiration has its boundaries and as much as we silently look up to the Germans nowadays, it would be so nice if we can beat them at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, preferably in the last minute of the final, with a penalty, ‘earned’ by a schwalbe of Arjen Robben.
Am ende wird alles wieder gut (translation: it will all get better in the end)