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The Politics of Physical Culture and German Nationalism:Turnen versus English Sports and French Olympism, 1871-1914

Udo Merkel

The 2002 Soccer World Cup in Japan took place during the final

phase of the national election campaign for the German Bundestag

and managed to temporarily unite Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

(SPD) and his conservative challenger, Edmund Stoiber1. Both were

keen to demonstrate repeatedly that they were so interested in the

progress of the German team that they simultaneously interrupted or

left meetings to follow televised matches. Domestically, they support

very different soccer clubs. Stoiber is on the board of directors of the

richest German club, Bayern Munich, whose past successes, wealth

and arrogance, numerous scandals, and boardroom policies of hireand-

fire have divided the German soccer nation: they either hate or

adore the team. Schröder is a keen fan and honorary member of

Borussia Dortmund, which is closely associated with the industrial

working class in the Ruhr area. It is the only team on par with

Munich; despite its wealth, the management policies of the club

appear modest and considerate; the club continuously celebrates its

proletarian traditions and emphasizes its obligations to the local

community. Stoiber’s election manifesto did not even mention sport,

whereas the SPD’s political agenda for sport focused upon a wide

variety of issues ranging from welfare, leisure, physical education,

and health to doping, television coverage, facilities, and hosting

international events.

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