A couple months ago, I wrote about several things I was curious to look into when we visited Europe. Although the list very well could have been endless, I narrowed one of my questions down to the prevalence of football, or better known to Americans as “soccer,” in the culture of European countries, especially Germany. On Thursday, Dr. P surprised us by telling us that he had managed to secure tickets to the final Bundesliga game at the Olympic Stadium for Berlin’s own team, Hertha BSC. Just last week before leaving to go abroad, I checked to see if any soccer games would be going on while we were in the different cities even though I knew it would probably be unfeasible since our days would be packed with experiences. I have always wanted to go to a soccer game in Europe and now having finally been, I can say that it lived up to all that I imagined.
Before talking about the game itself, the Olympic Stadium where the game occurred deserves recognition. The giant pillars raising the Olympic Rings demand attention towards the stadium’s powerful presence. Wrapped in light-colored stone with an open ceiling but overarching shades, the stadium contains significant aspects of history that most sporting arenas don’t. Instead of just an arena where a specific athlete made a debut or broke a previous record, the Olympic Stadium in Berlin contains a past rich in culture. In 1936, the Olympic Games were hosted at this same complex. To put it in context, Hitler planned these games as an opportunity to showcase the power and supremacy of the Aryan race to the world. To Hitler’s surprise and displeasure, Jesse Owens, a black American sprinter, won four gold medals in events expected to win by Germans. The unbelievable success and story of Owens serves as a sign to show that Hitler’s idea of racial domination by the Aryan race didn’t, couldn’t, and wouldn’t ever happen.
Beyond being one of the most beautiful stadiums I have visited both inside and out, I felt special being able to experience the location where an important blow against Hitler had happened. Additionally, I think the stadium’s history contributed to the environment present at the Hertha BSC game . Sure, people love to rally around a local sports team and look beyond differences that might otherwise separate them, but this environment felt different. While we walked into the game, I saw Hertha and Leverkusen players walking, joking, and singing together despite the fact that the two teams would be going head-to-head in less than an hour. Their actions spoke not only to the idea that the unification of people through sports is possible, but also might suggest that people remember the events that had happened at that exact stadium and it shapes how people view opponents.
In addition to the prevalent unifying power of the game, I saw tremendous culture and tradition throughout the match. Directly across from us sat the devoted blue-and-white home fans of Hertha BSC. I’m not sure I would even be willing to stand for an entire game, but these fans stood, chanted, danced, jumped, and cheered their hearts out for the entire 90 minutes. On the opposite side from them was one section of Leverkusen fans decked out in red and black flying numerous flags supporting their team. Like Hertha, these fans too cheered the entire match without letting up once. It was amazing to see how so many people band together to watch and support the team that they love. While Hertha BSC might have lost (that’s right, I already have pride in the city I have been in for four days), seeing the culture of German soccer is something I will never forget.
Today is our last day in Berlin before we head to Munich later tonight. Only a couple of days into CR9, I can already say I have seen some of the most amazing places in the world with a group of amazing people. In the coming weeks, I know I will continue to think and grow as an individual and cannot wait to see how this experience changes my life.