I am not a Borat of Germany
No leather pants… never be like them! Mustache and straight mullet are also local customs not to be adapted. That’s all guidance I received when I moved to play in Germany. We love stereotypes… People summed up a country from what sounded like they had learned from adult entertainment channel. So is perversion for growing facial hair all I have experienced in my first season in Bundesligas?
After playing six years in Crystal Palace, London, I haven’t now had a Borat experience here in Germany. Bratwurst isn’t like beans on toast, but I still couldn’t write something like Cultural learnings for make benefit glorious nation of United Kingdom. I can compare some things, though. What one player – outsider like Borat in both - has experienced in a short period of time. However, I am not going to take sides in case they also want to dub this column into Kicker -magazine. Furthermore, I heard it is not allowed to mention the war, so I keep my comparison of English and German football only as a game.
1. Freedom vs rules
Not allowed, forbidden, must, can’t, punctually, rules, rules and rules. My new team FC Kaiserslautern’s club and league rulebooks were bit like reading Dostoevski: plenty of heavy pages, crimes and punishments. English football is more nonchalant. I think only hard misbehavings were punished - like once a player disappearing for two weeks. That fine was equivalent for being in the stadium only 29 minutes before training in Germany. As much as I like certain freedom, having no grey areas is better for a player, so Germany takes the lead 0-1
2. Kilometers on trainers vs miles on boots
In England you play more often than in average town on Merseyside someone eats carrots. It is not healthy but neither are Germans, who don’t have a word “free –day” in their vocabulary. In England players often stop in cooling down sessions before time with so called “Union clap”, which is a humoristic way to tell coach that it is enough for the day. In Germany there are no round edges on the training ground and even joking about missing the last round is almost like betraying the country - at least 50 push ups. Germans put their skin pads on for training and don’t spare anything or anyone – there is no camaraderie on the pitch. Many times in England as long as you perform on Saturdays and Tuesdays you don’t need to handle much warmer than a cup of tea at the training ground – it is all about banter. When I managed 6 years with the same pair of running shoes in England, the same amount of months kills the air bags in German football school. I prefer boots so England nicks this. 1-1
3. Jacuzzi vs cold showers in Walsall
The best stadiums and facilities in the world are undoubtedly in Germany. The modern infrastructure, organization skills and series of specialists are making everything rolling fluently like Mercedes parts on the factory chain in Ruhr district area - unlike in England where many things are still done bit Victorian style. Practicality is one thing, plus it hasn’t felt the worst either to change to a dressing room including already as big jacuzzi as the whole dressing and treatment room together in Selhurst Park. Germany all day. 1-2
4. Mathias Sammer vs George Best
British football is laid back and fun, even wild on and off the pitch. Sometimes it felt like a big kindergarten, but on the other hand freedom is also a key to creativity. Too much discipline can make you dull, lead to mediocrecy instead of excellence and everybody being too similar. The far end of effectiveness is being invisible. English football won’t step into this land mine, the legendary myths of football culture live and breaths from the maverics like Rooneys and Bests. Who instead still talks about magics of Mathias Sammer – one of the most complete players in the world ever! Succeeded or not, in England you get an applause from a heel pass, in Germany at least those 50 press ups. Sticking to basics and avoiding mistakes can be boring and may look like machinery, at least it is so different to gambling British style, where you look to win even in the cost of failing. Never stay in your own bunker, so England 2-2
5. Constant war zone vs able to take few touches
If you get more time and space in England off the pitch, inside the lines there are from the first touch someone slide tackling horizontally into your calves: there are more speed than control. Instead in the league of thighs like oak trees there isn’t often these 18-certificate tackles but game is still very physical in terms of running to get organized. You can pretty much predict an average Bundesliga day while in England you never know what will be falling from the sky. Unlike to a supporter, for a player it is better to have a breather sometimes, so Germany. 2-3
6. Shall I sing a song for you vs drums?
The Kingdoms fan culture is passionate and unpredictable – the distance from villain to a hero is one tackle. The crowds demand heart more than skill. Bundesliga spectators are more analytical about the game, but the biggest masses of European football can also produce with their scarves, flags and drums an atmosphere to match from Schalke to a second league FC Cologne. British song variety and humor is still unmatched but most decibels come from weekly Oktoberfests. German quantity compared to English quality, big point for both. 3-4
7. Drunken misconducts vs percentages
The same sour game analysis continues in German press, unlike in the promised land of Tabloid papers where the emphasis is on personalities, scandals or gossips. In both countries football is always the main news. And how it is been written, that way you will be treated in the streets. It is still nicer to chat in the local supermarket about how many corners we have conceded instead of what your team mate has done in a disco. For not having Daily Star 3-5
8. Ballack vs Riihilahti
Germans are deservedly proud of their glorious football history and have hard time admitting that now even their crown jewel Michael Ballack is driving wrong side of the road. The hottest things are moving towards England and Germans are worried they have to settle with likes of Riihilahtis. England by a country mile. 4-5
9. Hellmut Krug vs Graham Poll
England is hard but fair. German referees have blown both away. The bureaucratic perversion for loving rules has taken some flow, passion and tensions away from the game. It feels like referees don’t even want to have contact with players. I would never complain again for having Mark Clattenburg. 5-5
10. Pound vs Euro
Sterling is so strong that football world is kneeing in front of it. Limitless foreign and domestic check books are also buying lot of realism away. Both clubs and players have sacrificed something from true sports in the altar of power and greed so our magnificent sport is in danger for being built into a bottomless surface. However, it still has made The Premiership the biggest and most entertaining football brand in the world and we are all enjoying it. Germans instead are calculating and sparing businessmen who are more interested in lasting and effective infrastructure than spending. In Bundesliga players are largely paid by results and appearances which I think is fairer than English system where the money would keep on rolling even if someone didn’t even want to produce. As long as you can afford to live, money is not part of my competition. 5-5
Karl-Heinz or George? Church school discipline or kindergarten? Sauerkrauten or baked beans? One player’s short education of differences between two football cultures is just a matter of an opinion. That is why I left it diplomatically as a draw 5-5. I could also go on about my life here whether I like more in women Petra Felke or Fatima Whitbread –type, how is the comparison of social life outside football, is Vauxhall and Opel the same car... but it is just individual tastes than actual things that happen in players work environment. There is already now no doubt in my mind that these countries are surprisingly different to play and live at. Bottom line is that they are both fanatic, great cultures and football superpowers. So I guess it is all just about avoiding leather pants!
I highly recommend:
1. Al Gore: An inconvenient Truth
- great politician, even greater person. if this doesnt open your eyes, what will!
2. The Kite Boy -book by Khaled Hosseini
- probably the best thing ever come from Afganistan
I dont recommend
1. Leather pants
- really, what were you thinking!
- i like the fact that all Finnish girls are beautiful but otherwise prejudging and stereotyping is just criminal
"In my country people would go crazy on these two ladies.. not so much her!"