If you’re walking through any built-up area in England between 8 and 10pm this Sunday and you hear a cheer you can be pretty sure it means one thing – Germany have scored yet again.
One of the great myths we were fed as children in the 1980s and ‘90s was that the English don’t like the Germans, and in particular the living representatives of all things Teutonic on earth, the German national football team. We love ‘em, and I imagine most English people will be supporting Germany on Sunday.
I remember being stuck in the countryside in 2006 and watching the Argentina-Germany quarter-final in a pub; the place went wild when Germany equalised and then won. I know they were playing Argentina, who because of Diego Maradona are England’s most hated team (my theory is that the neurotic Italians also fit the bill because they are both sufficiently alien to be dislikeable but also European enough to be proper rivals).
But I reckon many English people probably support Germany against most other major teams, and that reflects a fondness for the country and its football; the post-war period, with its lingering memory of conflict and England’s economic jealousy (epitomised I supposed by those Stan Boardman jokes about Jaaairmans stealing sun beds) was a historical anomaly that is now over.
From the 18th century to the First World War, English society was very Teutonophile, and rightfully so, considering what that country produced in the way of science and culture. According to Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark’s (admittedly quite pro-German) book about events a century ago, British public opinion was quite well disposed to them even in 1914, and getting more so. Even after the war itself many British soldiers expressed admiration for their former enemies, far more than towards their allies the French.