Soccer-mad Germans turning their backs on World Cup

BERLIN (AP) — Usually when the World Cup approaches, Germans happily wave their country’s flag and enthusiastically support their team.

NOT this time.

Anyone walking around Berlin this week will be hard-pressed to notice any signs of World Cup fervor. There are no flags, no signs, no public display events – no indication that the soccer-mad country’s bid for a fifth world title is set to begin with a match against Japan on Tuesday.

Qatar’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers have spoiled the party for many.

“We don’t want to enjoy a World Cup like this,” Bernd Beyer of the Boycott Qatar 2022 initiative told The Associated Press. “The fans don’t identify with it and say they don’t want anything to do with it.”

There were widespread protests against the tournament during Bundesliga and second division matches in recent weekends, with fans holding up banners blasting Qatar’s human rights record and recent comments by World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman denouncing homosexuality.

The lack of enthusiasm also had a commercial impact. Retailers have previously capitalized on the buzz surrounding major tournaments with Germany-related promotions. Former Germany coach Joachim Löw and his players are seen everywhere promoting various goods and services. This time around, the Association of German Sports Retailers says sales of fan merchandise are way down compared to previous World Cup years.

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“So far it’s not even half of what is usually sold in stores at big events of this kind,” association president Stefan Herzog told the RND newspaper group.

Adidas said demand for German kits has been low and its biggest seller to date has been the Mexico kit, considered by some to be the most stylish kit worn by the 32 World Cup teams.

TV sales, which generally rise for major sporting events, are also down, RND said.

Hundreds of bars across the country are refusing to show World Cup matches.

Steif Krüger, who runs a bar in Berlin, said on Friday he was boycotting the entire tournament, even if Germany reached the final.

“What’s happening at the World Cup is just terrible,” Krüger said. “People who have always watched football with us also know we won’t be showing it and are happy to support it.”

Dortmund pub Mit Schmackes, owned by 2014 World Cup winner Kevin Grosskreutz, is also not showing the matches.

“We love football and we can also say that we live football. The reasons are clear – this is why we will refuse to broadcast World Cup matches in Qatar, even if it results in losses for us,” the pub said in an Instagram post. to which Grosskreutz responded with three fire emojis to signify his approval.

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Qatar has repeatedly responded to criticism of its human rights record by insisting that the country has improved protections for migrant workers.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said on Friday that he would not rule out Scholz traveling to the final if Germany make it that far.

“This World Cup has been awarded and now it will be held under difficult circumstances,” Hebestreit said, referring to fans’ boycott plans. “Everyone is free to decide whether they want to watch this event or not – we live in a free country, that’s how it should be.”

Bundesliga clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach criticized the decision to give the World Cup to Qatar. and said they would give him little attention on their websites and social media platforms. Another club, Hoffenheim, says it will not report on the tournament not at all.

“There are simply too many things that have happened and are happening there that overshadow the great joy of sporting competition,” Jörg Schmadtke, sporting director of Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, told the Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last week.

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Schmadtke said he didn’t even know if he would watch the games on TV.

“It doesn’t excite me like in previous years when I was looking forward to a tournament like this,” Schmadtke said.

Qatar Holding LLC owns a 10.5% stake in the Volkswagen carmaker, which owns Wolfsburg.

Unlike previous tournaments, there will be no major public exposure events due to various factors such as cold weather, complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic and difficulties in organizing more outdoor parties during the Christmas market.

The usual massive “fan mile” viewing party at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate ended in September, when the organizing company said it was not possible this year. Around 9 million fans attended when Germany hosted the tournament in 2006.

German fans aren’t the only ones who seem unimpressed by this year’s World Cup. Belgium’s football federation this week scrapped plans to create a fan zone for supporters to watch games on big screens citing a lack of demand, and Paris and other French cities also suspended public viewing parties. In Barcelona, ​​Mayor Ada Colau said she would not “dedicate public funds nor public spaces to watch a World Cup held in a dictatorship.”


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