The Road to Durban, #2: "Far away in America"

Ah, nary a week since the last post in this series and I've gone from, "Um, not really in the mood yet" to "It's about time the festivities got started". These FIFA people certainly know a thing or two about timing. It would help my anticipation further if we could have a quick law that products with no direct connection to football may not be packaged or otherwise advertised as if such a connection existed. Beer may be a borderline case, but football bread and World Cup bank accounts? I say no.

Not only is it going to be fun to watch, the World Cup is also a first-class opportunity to correct stereotypes! So said politician, Werder Bremen bigwig and, I learned, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace with the United Nations, Willi Lemke in an interview yesterday. For example, the stadia South Africa built for the World Cup look A-OK when many people had said the South Africans would never be able to finish them on time. Lemke quickly added that please, please, you shouldn't judge the South African World Cup by "Western, European" standards - of course the games to come will not be as well organized as those in Germany four years ago. But if you like your tournaments "colourful" and generally use Negro criteria, then, Lemke assures us, you will have to conclude that the upcoming World Cup's all-around super!*

I bet the Happy Monkey People on Lazy Sunshine Continent will be totally grateful for your contribution to the war on stereotypes, Willi.

Anyway -

There used to be a time, called the late 1990s, when the first thing British people would say upon learning you are German was not "Hitler" or "How fast can you drive on the autobahn?", but, "Your national football team recorded a song with the Village People! You're all gay!"

It's true - the bit about recording a song with the Village People, I mean. But, if memory serves (which is quite a caveat in this case), their gayness was not a central part of the Village People's image in Germany at the time. That might seem strange if you, oh, look at the lot, but there had been a bit of a seventies revival in the early nineties and the Village People had been filed under "Seventies - Bad Taste/Crazy". Also, the Pet Shop Boys' version of the Village People's song "Go West" had been a huge hit in Germany in the previous year and had soon become a staple song in German stadia. Finally, The Village People were from the USA, where the next World Cup was going to be. By German FA standards, whoever decided this really had his finger on the pulse.

The song, unfortunately, was really crap:

The lyrics contain the surprising assertion that, "There's a rainbow in your eyes / On the other side of America". Make of that what you will, but Germany went out in the quarterfinals, losing to Bulgaria. Bulgaria!
*No, he didn't literally use the term "Negro criteria". Here's the original quote in German:
Ich habe jetzt die Hoffnung, viele andere auch, dass die Fußballweltmeisterschaft in Südafrika das Bild, das wir in der Regel in den entwickelten Ländern von Afrika haben, ein bisschen korrigiert wird. Zum Beispiel: "Eyh, die haben die Stadien wunderbar hingekriegt." Wie viele Journalisten haben vor einigen Jahren gesagt: "Das schaffen die nie. Da sind die ja Lichtjahre von entfernt. Mit der Wirtschaft und mit der ganzen Situation kriegen die nie hin!" Sie haben fantastische Stadien hinbekommen. Sie werden den Transport hinbekommen. Wir werden schöne Spiele erleben, farbige, bunte, grelle, afrikanische Spiele, keine westlichen, europäischen - bitte vergleichen Sie das nicht mit der Weltmeisterschaft in Deutschland, was die Durchführung angeht. Wir wollen das immer alles perfekt haben. Vieles wird bei den Afrikanern nicht perfekt sein, aber es werden Spiele sein, die innenpolitisch eine Wirkung erzielen werden - hoffentlich - und außenpolitisch genauso.

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