Germany's turn to rule

HARARE - It's hard to believe it has taken eight good years, since I visited this football-crazy country, for a German team to win the European Champions League as will be the case on May 28 at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Fewer countries live and breathe football like Germany, and that for the first time in the history of this prestigious competition, an all German final will be witnessed, is befitting tribute.

I had the privilege, as a young sports reporter on the Zimbabwe Independent eight years ago, to experience the unique atmosphere of German football after visiting the home grounds of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the two giants set to clash at Wembley in the Champions League final.

I was part of an eight-journalist group from different countries which enjoyed the electrifying atmosphere of the newly-constructed Allianz Arena in Munich in a match pitting Bayern Munich and the German national team on May 31, 2005.

The stadium was a cauldron of noise as different supporters’ clubs tried to outshine each other with an array of songs in support of their teams.

People roar, cheer, jump in joy. The atmosphere is so energetic and electrifying. You actually feel the passion.

Days later we would be taken on a tour of Dortmund’s stadium, and even though there was no match taking place, walking on the hallowed Westfalenstadion turf, seeing the history of the club and how such club legends as Alfred Preissler are hero worshipped, you realise how much football is part of the culture here. It brings meaning to life.   

With the 2006 World Cup looming, the “information tour” was designed for southern hemisphere journalists to report back to their different countries on Germany’s  preparedness to host the world’s biggest football showpiece, and being funded by the German federal government, one felt obliged to pay back and sing praises.

But you didn’t need an extra incentive. A year to go to the World Cup, Germany was almost ready. The stadia was there, the transport and communication facilities were in place.

The vibe could be felt across the border in the UK during the brief stopover. The British Airways plane flying over Wembley Stadium before landing at Heathrow, where publicity material for the World Cup was awash.

On arrival in Munich, the day of the German Cup final between Hertha Berlin and Bayern Munich, there was no doubt you had just landed in a football country. Bands of merry Bayern fans coming to the capital in all forms of transport and painting the city red, and Hertha supporters colour blocking the city with their blue.

We were pretty disappointed not to get ticket for that one, but overall, it was an experience worth remembering.

Over the years I wondered to myself why this giant has not dominated European football given its passion for the game, organisational skills and abundant resources.  That is has happened now does not surprise me.

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