Germany hopes to relive WC 'fairytale' with Euro 2024

The tournament is remembered as the moment a unified Germany shook off its dark past

AFP May 14, 2024


As Germany prepares to host Euro 2024, the 2006 World Cup - the last major international football tournament on German soil - still plays a formative role in the nation's collective consciousness.

Now widely known as the Summer Fairytale (Sommermaerchen), the tournament is remembered as the moment a unified Germany shook off the shadows of its dark past and showed the world a new, modern face.

On the field, the German team coached by Jurgen Klinsmann overcame dire pre-tournament predictions to make it to the semi-finals.

Despite losing in extra time to eventual champions Italy and eventually finishing third, Germany's performance kick-started a decade of dominance that peaked with the 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil.

Off the field, the tournament changed not only the way the world saw Germany, but the manner in which Germany saw itself.

Philipp Lahm, a key player in 2006 who captained Germany to World Cup glory eight years later, told AFP: "In 2006 we were able to experience the whole nation standing behind the team and giving us energy.

"The celebrations are good. That people come here to Germany and celebrate a big festival together."

German sports sociologist and philosopher Gunter Gebauer told AFP the tournament had a sudden and long-lasting impact.

"Before the tournament, the mood in Germany was very, very poor. The economy was not going well. The weather was bad and the football was atrocious.

"And then the World Cup started and during Germany's first game against Costa Rica, Philipp Lahm scored and the sun burst through -- it was almost like something from the Bible."

Living in a middle-class Berlin suburb, Gebauer saw a neighbour unfurl a German flag from his balcony, previously considered a "taboo" due to the nation's post-World War II reservations with nationalism.

"From there, we saw German flags and singing the anthem at Germany games -- something which just didn't exist before."


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