Watching football on the Rosenthaler Platz

“Aus dem Hintergrund müsste Rahn schießen, Rahn schießt – TOR, TOR, TOR!”

When did it start? The first tournament I watched in Germany was the Japan/Korea World Cup in 2002, and certainly bars and cafes broadcast the games, often pretty early in the morning, and those highly-paid superstars strutted their stuff on the perfectly manicured lawns of Tokyo and Seoul whilst the late-rising Berliner gazed bleary-eyed at the screen across the top of a foaming Milchkaffee. It was the same two years later in Portugal, although for the European Championships the games were at a more sensible hour, when drinking a beer during the first half was more socially acceptable…

But I think the real shift, and the moment that the live-screening of games moved beyond the bar and the café and into the bakery, the Imbiss and the hairdressers, came with the heady weeks of 2006 and the World Cup in Germany. Berlin and the rest of the host cities welcomed the world to their streets and their stadiums, and discovered something in themselves too – a positive patriotism perhaps – proud as they were not only of their team, but also the wider country, of how they hosted the event and changed the perception of a country and its people in the minds of many who crossed the borders to watch the games.

Since then, through Austria/Switzerland in 2008 and South Africa in 2010, public-viewing of the major football tournaments has become the shared experience. I remember for the opening game of the South African World Cup walking along the Duncker Straße, hearing the sound of the vuvuzelas all the way along, following the action on each television whether an expensively-assembled beamer and big-screen combo or a portable television on the beer garden table outside a Späti. This year, with the action taking place across the eastern border in Poland and Ukraine, the televisions are out on the street once more, and with Berlin being home to such a variety of nationalities you will always find someone with a vested interest in whichever game might be playing.

But even those with no affiliation make sure they are in front of a screen for the games, however unlikely the setting. It seems to me as if the World Cup 2006 triggered something in the collective imagination that people strive to reclaim and relive each time a tournament comes around. And the locals, all the while, stock up on their Schwarz-rot-gold facepaint, hang the flag from their car, and hope for another Sommermärchen. This time, it might just happen…

All these pictures were taken on Rosenthaler Platz or neighbouring Weinbergsweg in Berlin-Mitte, during the group match between Ukraine and France. They feature not only a hostel bar, a hotel courtyard, and some cafes and bars, but also a bakery, a hot dog shop, a takeout pizza parlour and a hairdressers. Of course there are plenty who have no interest in the football, and for whom this is an annoying manifestation of some kind of collective madness that grips the city for a month or so every couple of years.

Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig

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