Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Berlin Renaissance...

Sitting here in the room, it is so very hard to imagine what Berlin was like at the time of the visit of John F. Kennedy. From my window, just above the Brandenburg Gate, I find myself inside a modern European phenomenon. One driven no less by football than the incredible desire of the people to bring themselves the benefit consistent with the goals and aspirations of all people.

After decades of surpressed nationalism, kept in check by Americans, English, Russians and French, the positive spirit of German nationalism is now for this first time flourishing symbolically in the form of its flag adorning rooftops, cartops, clothing, faces and roadways. Everywhere, as not seen by a generation of soccer, Germany is standing proud in asserting itself as a winner and a gracious host. Pride and humility. What wonderful characteristics, probably best seen in the everpresent face of Franz Beckenbauer, who for those of us who know him for most of his six decades, find him as the symbol and personality which Germany has decided to adopt for this competition and for its evolution.

Franz is the embodiment of the principles of good governance, competitive spirit, realistic assessments and understatement, while seeming to be overdelivering on a steady basis. As the game with Argentina concluded on Penalty Kicks, Beckenbauer rose knowing that the pieces of the puzzle were falling in place and that the continued success of the FIFA World Cup 2006 Germany was assured since his team and their leader, California based J├╝rgen Klinsmann, had used Germany's advantages wisely and exploited the errors of their opponent Argentina.

At some point in the future, I hope to understand what turns otherwise great coaches into men who fail to rise to the occasion. I recalled, all too well, the moment in 1998 when Mexico took the lead over Germany in Montpelier, France, in the round of 16. Manuel Lapuente's Mexicans had dominated the play with attack, possession and the score of 1-0 on a goal from blonde-headed Luis Hernandez. Suddenly he would change their tactic and defend against the onslaught of the German ranks hitting their defense over and over until Mexico coughed up goals to Klinsmann and Bierhoff and Germany advanced to the quarter-finals. I flew that afternoon to London with Henry Kissinger lamenting the unnecessary loss to Germany and watched the match between England and Argentina the following night only to learn how deep English depression can be.

While the Presidents of the two combatant federations, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder of Germany and FIFA Senior Vice President Julio Grondona, who is also AFA's President focused on the field. The question I have is why did Jose Peckerman make decisions which, while I am sure intended to hold on to his one goal lead, caused the demise of the aspirations of millions of blue and white striped fans so many miles away. Are we so afraid to be wrong? Do we have the fortitude of spirit? Can we be bold enough to be right and sometimes wrong? At least, let us do it with style and class. I heard that Mr. Peckerman fell on his virtual sword and has closed a page on an otherwise brilliant development program for what appeared to be the most talented team in the 32 playing in Germany. By contrast, Klinsmann has stuck to plan and his script is clear. Prepare them well. Do what you do best. Be there at the end.

Berlin, Berlin... so much of what is good about Germany is now coming to life in Berlin. The people are celebrating. Enjoy these days. There is still much hard work ahead.

The following pictures are a sampling of some of the fun being celebrated in the Renaissance of Berlin on the last day of June 2006.

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