Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Friday, July 11, 2014

public viewing...a pride of fans.


To say that the term ‘public viewing’ is common here in Germany, would be a major understatement. What many in North America would associate with the public viewing of a head of state’s body before it is buried, means something altogether different here. Since 2006, in Germany and now beyond, the term means to watch a sporting event in public with hundreds or thousands of others.


I can’t express how ubiquitous the term 'public viewing' is here; on billboards, flyers and signs, in every small village, town square and light post. Public viewing. Football. Beer. As weathered and worn as the most diehard football fan feels today, after weeks of cheering their team on, so do the signs look.



But public viewing sure is fun. The wrinkled, leathery face watches beside the acne-pocked face, beside the black, red, gold painted face and the tattoo-ed face. Everyone comes together for football.


Great guy and I have been watching most of the Germany games just down the river from our place, in a biergarten on the Rhine; underneath massive oak trees, sitting at long beer tables with ‘new friends’. The atmosphere is excited, jovial, friendly, anticipatory, and let’s be honest, sometimes unbelievable (7-1 what was that??).



As rumours spread that Tuesday's semi-final game was some NSA joke or Moriarty hoax, we were stuffed in a carpenter’s workshop focused on a flatscreen set up in the corner; rain pouring buckets outside. A friend was celebrating her birthday and rather than call off her party, she decided to set up a TV. Everyone has football fever right now (okay, one or two people don’t but I haven’t seen them since June 13th) so planning an event on game night means very few positive RSVPs.



I mentioned to this particular friend how great it has been to watch the games outside, especially watching teens stand with hand over heart the moment the national anthem streams through the loudspeakers. She said that national pride is a new thing, again only since 2006. Before that, and as she was growing up, no one would have sung the national anthem loudly or flown the German flag proudly, painted their faces brightly or covered their cars patriotically. That even the Empire State Building was lit up schwarz, rot, gold is a sign of healing times, for this country at least.


Then to hear, above the sobs of Brazilians, the German fans in a stadium far away singing ‘Oh ein Tag, so wunderschön wie Heute’ (what a day, so wonderful as today) warmed my heart on a rainy, grey evening. The coming together of thousands of strangers (German ones anyway), in one place, singing the same song - why doesn’t that happen more often, and without costing millions to organize?



One great thing that doesn’t cost money, is public viewing. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006 game tickets had sold out so quickly, even the cleverest lioness on the prowl couldn't get her teeth on one. So world cup organizers petitioned FIFA to allow the free public broadcast of games around the country. No licensing fees, no entry fees; young and old, boy and girl, family and friend - everyone could come together and watch. Thus the term and tradition were born.



That Germans have misused the term ‘public viewing’, which is translated inexplicably into German as ‘rudelgucken’ (pride or herd watching), and made it their own doesn't seem to bother anyone. It has only gained in popularity, and led to some very creative soccer viewing opportunities. In Frankfurt a huge 2-sided screen was erected in the middle of the Main river, allowing 50,000 fans to watch the World Cup games from both riverbanks.


In Bingen, a few metres off of the Rhine boardwalk, being rocked ever so gently by passing freighters, is another amphibious public viewing screen. Rows and rows of flag-draped tables wait in anticipation for fans to sit on the terraced bank in front of the screen. Needless to say (but I’ll write it anyways) for Germany games, this area is packed like a herd of starving lions around a water buffalo carcass.



And then, in the wee hours of every late night/early morning final whistle announcing Germany's victory, fans drive through the streets obnoxiously honking their horns like they're celebrating their own midnight wedding. For all of those people who could care less about soccer, I hope that you have left the area (and by this I mean, head to Italy, France or Spain), because on Sunday it will be a late, great, loud night, once again. Go team!



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