German fans thank team in mass celebration
10 July 2006, BERLIN - A sea of flag-waving Germans packed in to Berlin's fan mile Sunday to pay tribute to their World Cup team at an official reception at the Brandenburg Gate.
10 July 2006
BERLIN - A sea of flag-waving Germans packed in to Berlin's fan mile Sunday to pay tribute to their World Cup team at an official reception at the Brandenburg Gate.
Juergen Klinsmann's side have been treated like heroes for their World Cup performances over the past month which they sealed with a 3-1 victory over Portugal Saturday night in Stuttgart to give them third place in the tournament.
The team, whose chances were widely discounted before the tournament, is widely credited with restoring German national pride for the first time since the Nazis were in power, and the crowd of over half a million fans was filled with people wearing the national colours and holding posters thanking the team for its displays.
Many had also painted their faces in the black, red, and gold colours of the flag, but in the 30-degree-plus temperatures the colours quickly ran.
The event at Germany's most famous landmark began with a look back at the country's run to the last four and its past football successes before the team now dubbed "the world champions of hearts" took the stage to thunderous applause.
Wearing T-shirts bearing the motto "Danke Deutschland" on the front and "Teamgeist 82 Mio" ("team spirit 82 million" referring to the German population) on the back, each member of the squad booted a football into the adoring crowd.
"This is the most beautiful moment of the World Cup for me," said defender Per Mertesacker while captain Michael Ballack said the atmosphere created by the World Cup would continue in German football long after the tournament ends.
"You are the best. Thank you," Ballack told the fans.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann also thanked the crowd but refused to be drawn on whether he would continue as coach, saying he would make a decision "in a couple of days.
"We have enjoyed a huge party for the last four weeks that German hasn't seen before," said Klinsmann, who got the loudest applause of all the squad. "It was fantastic. You are unbelievable."
Klinsmann has said he wants to discuss his future options with wife Debbie before making a decision but will find it hard to step down in the midst of an unprecedented wave of euphoria and goodwill towards him and his players.
"This team really changed something - it made this country like a family," said Hilda Loeb, 16, who like most of those in the crowd Sunday was too young to remember Germany's last World Cup triumph in 1990, never mind its victories in 1974 and 1954.
But an older supporter also felt that the current team was something special. "The way they played, the way Klinsmann was not afraid to change things, that was something new for Germany," said Otto Friedrich, 56. "No wonder the youngsters are so happy."
Almost a million fans turned up at the fan mile in Berlin for Saturday's match against Portugal when the national team bowed out of the World Cup on a winning note and gained some consolation for the semi-final defeat to Italy.
Initial fears of neo-Nazi and hooligan activity never materialized as millions of Germans celebrated the biggest sports party in history with their foreign visitors in almost Mediterranean-like weather conditions.
The carnival atmosphere throughout Germany has seen fans cram into city centre zones in full party mood to watch games, and then heading off to continue celebrations long into the night.
Subject: German news