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DFB team against Ukraine: Test match or festival match?

DFB team against Ukraine: Test match or festival match?

When the national team plays against Ukraine this evening, it’s not just about creating tournament euphoria. The flood in Bavaria will play a role – and the question of how the newly formed squad will deal with having to console people.

There are football matches that are advertised as friendly matches, but are actually more than just that. Often they are not their fault, external circumstances – you can call them the world situation, coincidence or fate – suddenly give them a sense of significance that broadens the sporting context.

The so-called friendly match that the German national team is playing against Ukraine in Nuremberg this evening is probably one such case. And of course, in the dry vocabulary of football reporting, there is a word that is overused. It is: of all things.

Not a nice word, more of a crutch, a helpless phrase with which one tries to make what has happened or will happen understandable, yes, to put it into context.

Of all people, he, as if it had to happen

When a striker scores a goal against the club where he spent half his career, the answer is: of all people, it was him. As if it had to happen that way. Which is of course a lie. And when Neuer let the ball slip just before the end of the Champions League semi-final against Madrid, the answer was: of all people, Neuer, the infallible one, the human octopus, the man of eternal return. Of all people, Neuer, who had previously reflected everything away. Poor bastard.

Looking at the friendly match this evening, the first of two before the European Championships in our own country, we could say: of all things against Ukraine, this country at war, which seems to know no friendly matches, but only survival matches. Every performance a morale appeal to the homeland under bombs, every goal a defiant hurrah, every victory a greeting to those who are holding out in Kiev, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa. Football, the last remnant of normality for a nation that no longer knows what normality is.

The players, at least the German ones, will try to somehow block out this situation. The Ukrainian players cannot and must not do that.

A test match where many people are losing everything

But the DFB is now also faced with the flood disaster in Bavaria. A test match of all things in other words, in the Free State, where many people are losing everything, their possessions and hope, and in some places even their lives. The spreading emergency will not leave the team unscathed, if only because they moved into their European Championship camp in Herzogenaurach just a few days ago, in the direct news environment of the unbearable.

Even though the floods have largely spared Nuremberg and the surrounding area and have mainly raged further south, the despair has reached as far as Franconia. Many fans who come to the game notice it in the arduous journey. In the trains that have been cancelled, the diversions that have to be made, the panorama to the left and right of the route. Rails that cross floods. As if you were driving through a lake landscape or strange salt mines. But these were once villages, streets, fields, meadows.

If it rains over the Max-Morlock Stadium in Nuremberg in the evening, God forbid, it will not be normal rain, not just Fritz Walter weather, but grist to the mill of destruction. Fodder for catastrophe.

A tender flame of hope

One can assume that Julian Nagelsmann, who is a young but also reflective and down-to-earth national coach, will make his team aware of this – if they haven’t already done so themselves. The motto of concentrating solely on the sporting side of things is a mistake today. Today the national team is also playing a little for all those fellow citizens who are currently in a pretty bad situation. At least they have that in common with their opponents, albeit in a completely different way.

And in the end, and not unimportantly, against this opponent and despite all the exaggerations, it is still about the sporting aspect. About a result that allows for tournament euphoria or at least that the tender flame of enthusiasm that was kindled at the training camp in March is not immediately extinguished. Now that the last game of the regular season has been called, now that the impression is taking hold everywhere that a European Championship will soon really be taking place in our own country, now that supermarkets, kiosks and drugstores are once again selling the black and red flower garlands, the side mirror condoms, German flags and make-up sets, the whole carnivalesque basic equipment of Festmeilenschland, the team has to deliver.

From everything one hears, sees and even observes from half distance in Herzogenaurach, the players are more than willing to make their contribution.

The football nation is leaping in its affection for the DFB

But Julian Nagelsmann knows how fickle the football nation is in its affection. That it is happy to give love, but even quicker to take it away. In November of last year, two truly tragic and sad performances meant that the team no longer had any confidence in itself and would have preferred to cancel the European Championship. Two victories in March, including the return of Toni Kroos, were enough to fuel a new enthusiasm that continues to this day.

As complicated as the situation is before today’s friendly, the solution, not for all but for some problems, sounds simpler: a victory, preferably one with finesse, with verve, with conviction.

Then Greece awaits in Gladbach on Friday.

Without, of all things.

Source: Stern

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