Football-mad Germans turn their backs on the World Cup

BERLIN (AP) – Usually when the World Cup approaches, Germans proudly fly their country’s flag and enthusiastically support their team.

Not at this time.

Anyone walking around Berlin this week would struggle to notice any signs of World Cup excitement. There are no flags, no signs, no public viewing event – no indication that the football-mad country’s bid for a fifth world title is set to begin with Tuesday’s game against Japan.

Qatar’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers has soured the party for many.

“We don’t want to enjoy the World Cup in this way,” Bernd Beyer of the Boycott Qatar 2022 initiative told The Associated Press. “The fans don’t identify with it and are saying they want nothing to do with it.”

There have been widespread protests against the tournament during Bundesliga and second division games over the past few weekends, with fans holding banners decrying the human rights situation in Qatar and most recently World Cup ambassador Khaled Salman condemning homosexuality.

The lack of enthusiasm has also had commercial implications. Retailers have previously cashed in on the buzz of major tournaments with offers related to the Germany team. Former Germany coach Joachim Löw and his players can be seen everywhere promoting various goods and services. This time, the German Sports Retailers Association says sales of fan articles are lower than in previous World Cup years.

“So far it is not even half of what is usually sold in stores at such major events,” Stefan Herzog, president of the association, told the RND newspaper group.

Adidas said Germany’s kits were in low demand and its biggest sale ever was the Mexico jersey, considered by some to be the most stylish of the shirts worn by the 32 World Cup teams.

RND reported that sales of TV sets, which usually go up for major sporting events, are also down.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman, Stephan Habestrait, told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the German leader would follow the national team’s matches if his schedule allowed. He added that he would not rule out the possibility of Scholz making it to the final if Germany reached that far. When asked about fans’ plans to boycott, Hebestraat said that “this World Cup was awarded and now it will take place under difficult circumstances.”

Bundesliga clubs including Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach have criticized the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar and said they would give it minimal attention on their websites and social media platforms. Another club, Hoffenheim, says it will not report on the tournament at all.

“There have been and are happening too many things that overshadow the great joy of sporting competition,” Jörg Schmidtke, sporting director of Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, told Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last week.

Schmadtke said he didn’t know if he would watch the match on TV.

“It doesn’t get me going like in previous years, when I looked forward to tournaments like this,” said Schmadtke.

Qatar Holding LLC holds a 10.5% stake in automobile giant Volkswagen, which owns Wolfsburg.

Qatar has repeatedly pushed back against criticism over its human rights record, stressing that the country has improved protections for migrant workers.

Unlike previous tournaments, there will be no major public events due to various factors including cold weather, complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the staging of more outdoor parties during the Christmas market season.

The usually massive “fan meal” viewing party at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate was scrapped in September after the organizing company said it was not possible this year. When Germany hosted the tournament in 2006, approximately 9 million supporters attended.

German fans aren’t the only ones who don’t seem impressed with this year’s World Cup. Belgium’s football federation this week abandoned plans to set up a fan zone for supporters to follow games on big screens, citing a lack of demand, and Paris and other French cities have also suspended public viewing parties. Nixed it. In Barcelona, ​​Mayor Ada Colau stated that she would “not dedicate public resources nor public spaces to watching a World Cup held in dictatorship.”

Baer, ​​of the Boycott Qatar 2022 initiative, said Germany has refused to show World Cup games hundreds of times. Among them is Dortmund pub Mitte Schmack, owned by 2014 World Cup winner Kevin Grosskreutz.

“We love football and we can also say that we live football. The reasons are clear – that is why we will refuse to broadcast World Cup matches in Qatar, even if it hurts us,” the pub said in a statement. said in an Instagram post, to which Grosskreutz replied with three fire emojis to indicate his approval.

Fargo Bar in Berlin is not showing another tournament.

“I have been showing the World Cup since 2006 in my campus. They were always events where people got together, we cheered and celebrated, hugged each other. With this World Cup in the background, you can no longer do that with a clear conscience,” Fargo owner Lennart Klohn told the local Tagespiegel newspaper.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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