Schlaaaaaand!


Last week a herd of children dressed in animal costumes passed me by on unicycles, and I failed to get a picture. Instead, here’s a faint trace of the rollerblading procession that appeared on Schlesisches Straße last night. There were a couple hundred of them maybe. Minimal techno also played a part, as is customary.

I walked home today in Saturday’s clothes, which was of course classy, and bought ayran on the way, which I promptly spilled down said clothes. I don’t feel I have the right to complain about the heat, seeing as in my own part of the world we’re always moaning about how cold it is. However, the past few days have seen a shift from cool summer breezes and no need for sleeves to that horrible sweaty stickiness that makes you want to just sit in a paddling pool and never move again. One reason I didn’t make it home yesterday was because I took a walk around the block in Kreuzberg and swiftly realised that even standing up felt a bit too much like hard work; ice cream sounded nice but there was no way I was going to queue for it. I spent the evening lazing around in the Berlin Welcoming Committee’s flat, drinking wine and watching Press Gang.

Three months in Berlin now and the current plan of action is to stay on here after mid-September, in between various travels. This means I will need to find accommodation that I actually pay for, which may necessitate living with other people for the first time in six years. I will also need to return to Edinburgh to sell a bunch of my stuff in a hurry and put the rest into storage (I’m kind of scared to investigate how much this might cost). I saw a video on YouTube not so long ago of hippies dancing in mud at the Meadows Festival. All I could think was: I do not miss this. Sorry Edinburgh.

On Saturday I borrowed the Berlin Welcoming Committee’s bike and cycled to Entzaubert – my first proper bike ride in about twenty years. And it was amazing! I barely had to do anything! So now I definitely want a bike, but the problem is I can’t afford one. It’s not like it’ll particularly save me money on public transport, since I regularly walk longer distances here than most other people seem to, and one reason for that is I can’t afford to take the U-bahn all the time anyway. I could get a bike for €40 but it’s commonly held that such bikes are stolen, and I have ethical issues with that. So I’m just kind of waiting around for something to materialise.


The Berlin Welcoming Committee’s bandmate, who has requested that her name be recorded here as Bloody Fege, watches as Spain beat Portugal.

Do you mind if we talk about the football again? I mean, I surprise myself: I still don’t intend to care about football once the World Cup is over. But for now, I have gotten rather caught up in it. I am chasing up trivia. I am checking the sports pages. I am on the lookout for slash involving Mesut Özil. And as the grand finale approaches, it is essential that I witness every goddamn match.

Things I have learned:

  • What offside means. (Bloody Fege tried to explain it to me using some cutlery and a bit of grated carrot, but her version left me none the wiser.)

  • Some of North Korea’s players were born in Japan, including Jong Tae-se whose parents are from South Korea but he decided to trade his citizenship for North Korean. You may remember him as the footballer who cried when they played the North Korean national anthem prior to their match against Brazil.
  • Kaká from Brazil is a devout evangelical Christian.
  • Jérôme Boateng, who plays for Germany, is the half-brother of Kevin-Prince Boateng, who plays for Ghana, which I only discovered after they’d played against each other in the World Cup. Also, they aren’t speaking to each other. The drama!

It was heartbreaking when Ghana lost to Uruguay on Friday night. But it was heartening to watch it outside a Turkish cafe in a Berlin street, and to take part in the cheers and applause whenever Ghana’s players stepped forward for the penalties. Knowing how important it was both for Ghana and for Africa as a whole, we wanted them to go forward to the semi-finals. Applauding a TV set was futile, and yet it felt good to share the moment with so many people who were on the same side.

As for Germany’s matches, their recent wins have been quite epic, beating England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0. (Whenever the camera showed Maradona with his face tripping him, the audience, en masse, went Awwww, as if we were watching a pantomime.) These victories have been punctuated by fireworks, vuvuzelas, and cars beeping their horns incessantly while their passengers wave flags out the windows.

As a newcomer to spectator sports, it’s still faintly ridiculous to me: what does it all matter, really? But it’s still exciting to watch the German team play so well, and I’m going to be disappointed when the World Cup is over because I will have to find something else to obsess over instead. My criteria for supporting teams has evolved slightly as the tournament has progressed: I support Germany because I live here and because everybody gets happy when they win (secondary reasons for supporting them would be that they’re a very good team and that Özil is hot). I support the Netherlands (unless they wind up playing Germany – which I expect they will) because my brother lives there plus my favourite colour is orange, which, under normal circumstances, is rather unfortunate for a leftist from Northern Ireland. I supported Spain in their last match because I resented Portugal for beating North Korea 7-0, which was kind of taking the piss. I supported anyone playing against Brazil because I was bored with watching the Brazilian team fall over every two minutes.

So, given that I’m somewhat invested in it now, the notion that there’ll be another four years before I get my next fix is slightly worrying. But I’ve always got the Eurovision.

One response to “Schlaaaaaand!

  1. apart from my seemingly unshakeable support of England (I can never get it below at least a passing interest, it’s weird) and my intrinsic love of Kenya (family), Mali (music), and Brazil (magic football*), I tend to side with whichever country entertains me with good play. to this end I’ve nearly always been a fan of Argentina and Espanya who, despite their failures year-on-year, always play gloriously. except of course Espanya have basically dominated the universe since 2007, which is tremendously rewarding after years of watching them fail.

    I never used to like Germany, but since Loew took over I find they are tremendously good fun to watch. can’t say I find Oezil hot (if I had to pick a footballer it’d be Piqué, or Thierry Henry from back before his divorce aged him 10 years) but he is a great little player. love the way he moves between lines and always looks to feed his team-mates. I wonder how they will prosper after Klose retires, though, because his movement and unselfish play is a key to their counter-attacking rhythm.

    *obviously the Brazil you watched were not playing magic football. truthfully from 2006 World Cup to the 2010 World Cup they did not play magic football, mostly because of their coach Dunga being a joyless pragmatist, but regardless, he’s gone now and they’re back to being oh so magnificent to watch (if you can catch any of their games now, do so).

    mmm, football.

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