03.04.2008: German Mannschaft celebrates 100th birthday

German Football
By German Football April 4, 2008 03:51

03.04.2008: German Mannschaft celebrates 100th birthday

DFB-President Dr. Theo Zwanziger talks about the anniversary of the German national team, which played Switzerland in the first ever international game on April 5, 1908.

Question: These days, the DFB and every football fan in Germany celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the national team. What comes to your mind when you think of the Mannschaft’s long history?

Theo Zwanziger: We’ve had quite a successful run. Within eight years after the DFB had been founded, the national team played the inaugural game. Just think about which accomplisments were triggered by football in Germany, especially following World War II. Football always moved the people living here, whether because of the many major triumphs our defeats. We have really had an incredible journey.

Question: How do you evaluate the social impact the team had?

Zwanziger: Within our democratic society, the German national team is seen as a strong symbolic entity for competitiveness, discipline and fairplay. The Mannschaft functions as an international ambassador and the common demoninator for all people living in Germany. The team is our touchstone for a healthy patriotism. The 2006 World Cup was such a successful promotional campaign for German football, as people tell me when I travel. The summer of 2006 was a time to make friends, a very peaceful and joyous tournament. Football has the potential to bridge differences. If we continue to communicate meaningful messages, we could really improve overall social conditions.

Question: If you look back in time, what major influences do you attribute to the German team?

Zwanziger: I talked about 2006 – winning the 1954 FIFA World Cup was similar and yet very different. Then, a collective depression weighed on Germany, and football was an antidote. Following the fascist years, when criminals and murderers had ruled our country, and then the exclusion of Germany from the international community, winning the World Cup in Bern helped the German citizens to regain some confidence. We could accomplish something positive – that was the learning of 1954.

Question: It needed public criticism for the DFB to face it’s own past.

Zwanziger: We dealt with it rather late, only a few years ago, but not too late (The DFB financed the historical study “Fußball unterm Hakenkreuz” by Nils Havemann and hands out an annual award in the memory of former Jewish national player Julius Hirsch, editorial note). Looking at other federations, we are certainly not the last in dealing with the period between 1933 and 1945. Only because we reexamined the role that we had played during this murderous time, were we able to host such a light-hearted and untroubled World Cup. We picked the right moment and we did send out an important signal, without ever intending to hurt the feelings of people who had lived during these years or had been involved in the system. We should never stop to reevaluate our positions and to question ourselves. The DFB with its 6.5 million members has to face political and social responsibilities, which are part of our mission as a modern major sporting organisation.

Question: The DFB is also involved in an on-going battle against racism and against drug abuse.

Zwanziger: We need to shoulder this load, there is no other option. How can we claim to play a vital and important role in modern-day Germany, and then look the other way, whenever things get complicated? We certainly recognize, that violence and racism infect parts of our beloved game. We do not live in a perfect world. But by working in close partnership with the state, we can do our share to make things a bit better.

German Football
By German Football April 4, 2008 03:51
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