Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Euro 2008 Film Festival: Group B, Germany

Film Festival Rules & Guidelines

Film selected (Year, Director): Goodbye Lenin (2003, Wolfgang Becker)
Rating: 8.5/10
Rules compliance: All rules met

Relevance to Soccer: Unity through soccer.

Euro 1992 -- Reunification of Germany, teamwork of Denmark, collapse of Yugoslavia and the Soviet union

When the Berlin wall came down, my first reaction was not a political one but a soccer related thought -- I felt that German football would rule the world for years to come! Even though the West German soccer team was much superior than the East German team, East Germany had a string of quality soccer players. So I thought a unified German team would mean that these East German players would play for the new unified team and help strengthen an existing strong West German core. Well any such thoughts were dismissed when the new unified German team struggled in the opening stages of the Euro 1992 tournament. In their first game, Germany struggled against the tactics of an efficient Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S, former Soviet Union) team and were spared blushes when a last minute free kick from Thomas Hassler earned them a 1-1 tie. Germany then went onto beat Scotland 2-0 before getting thrashed by their bitter rivals Holland 3-1. A 3-2 win over Sweden earned the Germans a place in the finals, where they were outsmarted 2-0 by the smooth fast flowing football of the Danish team.

Euro 1992 was an interesting tournament in terms of unification and collapse of nations. With 2 weeks to go before the tournament, the Yugoslav team was kicked out due to the Balkan war which resulted in the nation's collapse. The Balkan crisis ensured the permanent disappearance of one of Europe's strongest soccer teams in Yugoslavia. I still feel if there was no conflict in the Balkans, Yugoslavia would have won Euro 1992. On the other hand, a unified German team was stronger on paper with the East German additions of Matthias Sammer, Thomas Doll and Andreas Thom but failed to combine together on the field.

Then there was the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S). With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a mixture of former Soviet republics was allowed to field a team. C.I.S started off brightly against Germany before settling for a 1-1 tie. A gritty 0-0 tie with the holders Holland followed before C.I.S were firmly dispatched 3-0 by Scotland and finished bottom of their group. Note: this tournament was also a time when a win was only worth 2 points, as opposed to the three that are currently awarded.

Denmark, who were the runners up to Yugoslavia in the qualifying stages, were invited to take the place of Yugoslavia and made the most of their invitation -- a quickly thrown together Danish team beat Platini's French team 2-1 (France were another pre-tournament favorite) and went onto knock out the Euro 1988 holders Holland on penalties in the semi's before unlocking Germany 2-0 in a historic final. There was only one real superstar in the Danish team, Brian Laudrup, one half of the talented Laudrup brothers (Michael did not play for Denmark due to differences with the coach). The Danish goal-keeper Peter Schmeichel was still not a household name even though he got a transfer to Manchester United in 1991. Euro 1992 truly established Schmeichel
as one of the best goal-keepers in the World and he went onto have a very successful spell with Manchester United with whom he spent 8 years and won plenty of titles.

1990 World Cup -- the final appearance of West Germany

After finishing up as runners-up in the 1982 World Cup (3-1 loss to Italy) and the 1986 World Cup (3-2 defeat to Argentina), West Germany finally won their 3rd World Cup with a lucky 1-0 win over Argentina. A weakened Argentine team were cruelly denied a penalty by the Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal and a few minutes later, the referee gave West Germany a non-existent penalty in the 85th minute. Andreas Brehme placed his spot-kick beyond the reaches of the Argentine goal-keeper Sergio Goycochea to send West Germans into a delightful frenzy.

Revisiting 1990 via a film

Well I always thought that only West Germany celebrated the 1990 World Cup win. Little did I know. Even though German unification (or reunification) did not take place until October 1990, the humorous German film Goodbye Lenin shows how some East Germans celebrated the 1990 World Cup win on July 8. The main character in the film, Alex, notes that soccer truly helped speed up the unification of the two neighboring nations.

The film starts off just before the collapse of the Berlin wall. In the few months after the wall came down, changes happened in East Germany overnight. For example, all the former communist food items disappeared from the shelves and a new wave of Western goods started becoming available. Alex gets a job with a satellite company that tries to hook up as many Eastern homes as possible. The company's policy is to pair an East German employee with a West German to help speed up understanding between the two nations. And satellite sales are certainly boosted because of the new found interest among East Germans to watch West Germany in the World Cup.

For me, the biggest surprize was to find that Goodbye Lenin featured so many scenes regarding the 1990 soccer tournament. 1990 was also the first ever soccer tournament I saw and I remember all the games.

In the following picture, Lothar Matthäus is about to take his penalty against Czechoslovakia in the quarter-finals.

He celebrates his goal which was enough for a 1-0 win and a meeting in the semi-finals with rivals England.

The following are scenes regarding the semi-final penalty shootout between West Germany and England.

The player on the tv screen is Chris Waddle. He steps up to take the 5th and final kick for England.

But he blasts the ball over the goal sending West Germany into the final.

That sends the local mix of Eastern and Western German employees into wonderland.

Where do those statues go?

Also, a common cinematic scene with the collapse of communism appears to be removing the statues of Lenin from the city. In Goodbye Lenin, this fascinating picture shows Lenin's statue being carried through the city.

In the next picture, the status appears to be asking Alex's mother (who is a firm believer in communism) to fly away with him.

Finally, the statue flies away almost as a symbol of the East German's beliefs heading over the clouds.

No comments: