Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Germany remains divided for the World Cup

Like most of what was once the former GDR, it is fair to say that Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has been shut out from the official World Cup party. If you exclude Berlin, whose Olympiastadion is in the old western part of the city, only five of 64 World Cup games are scheduled to be played in the east, all in Leipzig. Only one team, Ukraine, has its base in the east, in Rostock. And now following Saturday's match between Argentina and Mexico in Leipzig, the World Cup is leaving the east altogether. There will be no more games here.

One suspects that the east remains something of an embarrassment to the rest of Germany. It is too poor. The social problems are too deep, with unemployment as high as 20 per cent. Racism and suspicion of the outsider are entrenched, especially in smaller towns.
Parts of the east, notably Hoyerswerda in eastern Saxony and some of the Baltic towns, have indeed become, 'no go zones' for non-whites. There is a problem with young disadvantaged young men. In eastern Germany it's the women who are more mobile, who are more prepared to move to other parts of the country, such as affluent Bavaria, to live and work. The men tend to stay behind and, on the whole, their resentment grows.

Neues Deutschland was once the Pravda of the old GDR, with a circulation of more than a million. Today, still leftish, it sells only about 70,000 copies a day. Its diminished fortunes, like those of the old East German football clubs, is representative of the losses as well as the gains of reunification and there remains a lingering sense in the east of the past having a more powerful presence than the present itself.

'Nostalgia or what we call "Ostalgie" is a very powerful force in the eastern states,' says Paul Nolte, professor of contemporary history at the Free University in Berlin. 'What are people nostalgic for? They're nostalgic for the lost certainties of the old era. There's a feeling that things were better and more ordered in those days. This manifests itself in a fondness for old East German products and brand names such as the Trabant pictured above.'


I have left the football World Cup to others who know a lot more about it than me. But Jason Cowley's article in Sunday's Observer, from which the edited extract above is taken, is an excellent piece of journalism highlighting the enduring divide between the former East and West Germanies.


Image credits: Divided World Cup - BBC News, Trabant in the former East Germany by Pliable from my photo essay I am a camera - Robert Schumann's Zwickau. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to the former East German cities of
Dresden * Leipzig * Zwickau and Berlin.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The situation is much more complicated:
Michael Ballack, the captain of the national soccer team, is an East German and is universally accepted; Hoyerswerda also happens to be in part of one of the few regions in the entire country where all signs are bilingual, in support of the ethnic and linguistic minority of Sorbians; and throughout East Germany, Vietnamese -- most immigrants from the days of the DDR -- are trusted and familiar neighbors and merchants. The lack of prospective for young men in a post-industrial and globalized economy is far from unique to the former DDR, perhaps more intense due to rapid change in systems, but not unique.

There are also some brighter perspectives for the east -- a bit of depopulation might have some serious environmental benefits in a densely populated country without wilderness, and the opportunities for better sustaining and natural agriculture have increased in the East due to the low costs of land.

Anonymous said...

I feel that if the national soccer team were to investigate some corporate backing from outside enities they may be able to offer a better equipment and training for their players.

Many countries experience economical and environment decline but to blame ethnic and linguistic for the reason is just a lazy way of saying that we do not want to put forth the effort to improve our situation. It takes hard work to make a country financially grow and it takes the want of the people to make this happen. I realize that government officals control many aspect of a country but the people still have voices when it comes to the election of those officals as in East Germany.

They lack of trust from foriengers and stranger is a large part of the problem. The hate and discontent of what someone has because they have worked hard for it is not reason to turn you back on their ideas of help to improve a situation. It worked for them, why not give it a try for you.

The old way is not necessary the best way. Take a look around and see what others are doing to improve and get off your "pissy pot" and do something about it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there aren't any stadiums big enough in the East to support the costs of the World Cup?