Ghosts play soccer too

The celebrations that follow big soccer wins tend to be as short-lived as the euphoria after a country scores diplomatic or political points at a summit meeting. Life is still hard afterward. The Greeks know this well and the Spaniards know it better: No matter how many cups they have walked away with from European and world soccer championships, they still have to go knocking on foreign doors for help. Meanwhile, saying that soccer brings nations closer together is nothing but a cliche, along the lines of the belief that the European Union — divided, without a plan and with no other vision than saving its banks — can create bonds of kinship between its members.

The issue is not that we remain Greek, Italian or German, and so on. It?s that the divisions between nations and national leaderships and their people are getting wider, and this was more than apparent during the recent European soccer championship. As superficial as some like to think that the chants from the stands are, the truth is that they are meaningful exactly because they are spontaneous.

Just as the racist chants we heard in the stadiums of Poland and Ukraine are not to be taken lightly, neither is the German arrogance we saw and the anti-German sentiment expressed by fans from southern European countries and elsewhere during matches involving the German national team and Greece or Italy. This anti-German sentiment (which serves as an antidote to a lot of the crassness seen in the German media) was not just enshrined on the front pages of Greek newspapers and in linguistically liberated websites, but it was also reiterated by the French and Spanish media, as well as by countries seen as more neutral — if there is such a thing as neutrality in any war, even a symbolic one like soccer.

While many German intellectuals are increasingly concerned by their country?s imperialist attitude, the German leadership and the mouthpieces of the populist elements in the government, such as Bild, are indifferent to the echo of history. Arrogant, hegemonic and insultingly sarcastic, they ignore the fact that in Italy, Greece, France, Poland and many other European countries, there live people who have very traumatized memories of the Germans of another era. Clearly we are not talking about a case of collective, racial or hereditary responsibility. Nevertheless, the intractable and lucrative German stance (the epitome of which is Chancellor Angela Merkel?s proclamation that for as long as she lives there will be no Eurobond) is awakening memories and ghosts; the ghosts that remind us of the nightmare that Europe was trying to escape through unity.

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