Let's Play Some Fussball!

Sorry everybody, I've been absolutely terrible about maintaining this blog.  It's overly-socially-networked syndrome, where between Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr you're so busy updating ridiculous minutiae of your life that you forget to actually write.

But I don't want to do a general update about how we're getting on in Germany - I'll save that for later.  For now I want to talk about the sport that's captured my attention and my husband's heart: football!  Or soccer.  I'm trying really hard not to say "soccer" since virtually everyone else in the world calls it "football".

France and England are going at it!
Football is difficult for Americans to understand.  It's foreign.  It also has unfornate associations in the U.S. as a children's sport and as well, something those effeminate Europeans are into.  It's an unfair reputation, given what a high-contact, brutal sport it can be.  Unlike American football, there's not much in the way of padding, and there's a lot of cleat-on-face action.  On the other hand, coming from American sports, it can be difficult to watch, due to the high degree of "flopping" (in an attempt to show the other team committed a foul, players will drop to the ground and writhe around as if they're giving birth) and the somewhat inscrutable rules.

But even without a lot of knowledge, it's a really fun sport to watch.  Particularly, I think, for people who enjoy basketball and hockey.  It's incredibly fast-paced, and the clock rarely stops.  It's also a relatively short game, usually ending within two to two and a half hours - a nice respite from baseball games that can go on forever.  Unlike baseball, football can end in a tie, and this is not an infrequent occurrence.  A bit frustrating for Americans like me who are used to clear winners and losers.

Fussball im Biergarten
But football is not always as exciting as it is right now, and that's because the UEFA (that's United European Football Association) tournament is going on.  I have to admit, a week ago, I had no idea what it was either.  I thought I was a pretty savvy American because I knew that the World Cup was a big thing that happened every 4 years.  Turns out, the UEFA tournament is the next biggest thing (if you're in Europe) because it's basically the "Eurocup" and also only happens every four years.  Some dude told me that Europeans are more invested in it than the World Cup, because it more directly ties into intra-European rivalries.

Anyway, it kicked off on Friday and man is it a big deal here.  There's public transit discounts (You can buy a day ticket to ride the public transit system in Stuttgart, and it's valid every day that Germany plays - so if Germany advances, you can get up to 6 days of free rides!), lots of public viewings with large screens and tents set up, and the celebrations.  Oh, the celebrations.

Germany beat Portugal on Saturday night, and from the way the locals reacted, you'd think they'd won the whole tournament.  Hours of screaming, shouting, honking, and being accosted by friendly drunken soccer fans wearing German flags as capes.  It was pretty fun for me, as I'd been out watching the game and got to partake in the festivities, but my poor husband had been sleeping so he could get up for work at 4:00 a.m.  Needless to say, I don't think he's super into Germany winning.
German vs. Netherlands

Things were a bit more sedate tonight, when Germany played the Netherlands.  The expat group I'm a part of consists mostly of Americans, Brits, and Irish people, so they tend to watch all the games in Irish pubs, which are largely devoid of Germans.  Fine for an England or Ireland game, but boring for a German game.  So we went into the mitte.  I was actually supporting the Netherlands tonight, because my poor friend Tom was and there are almost no Dutch people here.  Unsurprisingly, Germany won, and while it wasn't as crazy as Saturday night, there were still hordes of drunken German boys slurring patriotic songs into the night.

On Friday we get to watch France play in France, which will be pretty cool, and on Sunday, Germany plays Denmark, and even if Germany loses, they still have a shot of getting into the semifinals.  But let's face it, Germany isn't going to lose!  (Knock on wood).