As host of the 2006 soccer World Cup in June and July 2006, Germany was suddenly full of different Germans, waving millions of black-red-gold mini flags and wearing their (and others') national colors with abandon. Was this show of nationalism a new kind of trans/national patriotism? Most certainly, the national enthusiasm exhibited in Germany had nothing whatsoever to do with past demonstrations of patriotism. With the focus on the country as host to world soccer aficionados, the world also learned of a multicultural Germany that has existed for the last fifty years or so. It learned that it is not always successful with its social and economic problems, and that the desire for national unity is sometimes difficult to fulfill. Quite correctly, the national media described Germany as joyous, generous, and open-minded hosts. In the foreign press, too, the old stereotypes were broken down.
The sporting news1 that received the most media attention in the summer
of 2006 was not the Italian victory at the World Cup but rather the
Calciopoli scandal2 that shook the world of calcio (soccer). A distinctive
characteristic of the scandal was that it involved principally the
major clubs, in particular, Juventus, the richest and most successful
club in Italian soccer. Although not the first crisis in its history, it was
undoubtedly treated as one of the most serious catastrophes ever
recorded in Italian soccer, portending the end of the credibility and
sustainability of a model of business that, with its rules and its system
of consolidated relations among its main actors, had until then characterized
Italian professional soccer.
Paul Dietschy, David Ranc and Albrecht Sonntag
Although history textbooks are highly revealing sources of what is considered worthy of being included in collective memory, they only tell half the story. The study of the non-official “parallel pantheons” of popular culture also contribute significantly to understanding patterns of perception and self-perception as well as mental representations of “Europe.” For more than a century, soccer, Europe's most widely shared social practice, has contributed to shaping perceptions of what can be encompassed under the term “Europe.” This article focuses on the “popular maps” of Europe that soccer has drawn over the last half-century and hints at the myths of cultural commonality that underpin them. It appears that while soccer represents a somewhat ambiguous metaphor for contemporary Europe, it can also supply interesting insights into the emergence of horizontal bonds between Europeans.