When Dr. P told us that we were going to a Hertha soccer game, I could not contain my excitement. To make it even better, we were going to a game being playing at Olympiastadion. The Olympic Stadium that Hitler built for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Jesse Owens won gold despite extreme racial tensions. Funny enough, the history of this stadium that was most significant to me was that this was the stadium in which Frenchmen Zinedine Zidane head butted Italian Defender Marco Materazzi in overtime of the semi-finals of the World Cup. He would subsequently receive a red card. This ended France’s chance to win the World Cup and also was the last game of Zidane’s national career.
What made this moment so significant to me was that I vividly remember watching this game with my dad back in the Netherlands. Watching the World Cup with my dad was something that was so meaningful to me as a child, so to be in the same stadium that Zidane was tossed out of the game was very memorable.
As we walked into the stadium, I was curious to see how an international soccer game compared to an American football game back home. Specifically, I was interested about how the fans would compare. I can say from personal experience that going to a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field with the family is not an enjoyable experience, yet all I hear about European soccer games are how crazy they are. So would there be a difference?
When the game began to start, it became very apparent that this game was different. Although the fans were loud and probably just as intoxicated as any American football game, the atmosphere was unlike any Chicago Bears game I had been to before. Instead of fans shouting individually in frustration, I found that they chanted in unison. Even though I cannot understand any German, it never felt as if the fans were cursing or yelling vulgar things. Maybe they would boo or express frustration with a collective sigh, but they were too engaged to the game to do otherwise. This leads to the next question. Why was this game and this atmosphere different?
From my perspective as a spectator, it was the passion for the game and their team that made this soccer game unique. While American football fans are passionate, that feeling of passion was not comparable to this Hertha game. The fans were not passionate for a form of entertainment. They were passionate for something that was an integral part of their identity. This was more than a game for them. It was a lifestyle.
This was clear as we got on the train to the game along with the rest of the fans as they all wore their white and blue striped jerseys. Chants even started on the train and walking to the stadium. You could just feel the loyalty and passion for their team. At the beginning of the game, everybody held up their scarf together that said Hertha on it. They even had unique names to yell when each member of the starting lineup was introduced
In America, the passion for our sports teams tends to be dependent on how successful they are at the time. Something I am more than guilty of as a Chicago Cubs (how can you blame me though? I mean c’mon after 108 years, you start to have some doubts to say the least) If anything, it was refreshing to see fans that were fired up to have the opportunity to cheer on their team in person. Regardless of the outcome, they were staying with Hertha and that in my opinion is what sports are all about.