The Diplomacy of Football: ‘Beat the stuffing out of Germany' urges UK's EU minister - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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The Diplomacy of Football: ‘Beat the stuffing out of Germany' urges UK's EU minister

Friday, 25 June 2010
In case you hadn’t noticed – the greatest event in the football calendar is taking place at the moment in South Africa as the world’s 32 best teams contest the four-yearly World Cup.

Football fever is infecting populations worldwide – and clearly also the politicians, but as the leading World leaders meet this weekend in Toronto, Canada in the latest meeting of the G8 and G20 groups football has created some interesting side stories.

On Sunday, following their poor performance in the group stages which England should have won convincingly, the Three Lions will face off against the old foe of Germany and arguably the biggest news to have emerged from the meetings in Canada is that David Cameron and Angela Merkel may watch the England-Germany clash together on Sunday.

Now, David Cameron has never claimed to know or care all that much about football (why should he as a Tory?) but it seems that at a moment such as this even he must submit to football’s presence.

With the majority of the British population more interested in the country’s showing in South Africa, it seemed somewhat shrewd of Mr Cameron’s head of communications, Andy Coulson, to have staged a photo-opportunity in Downing Street showing Mr Cameron watching the second half of the England – Slovenia match.

But that was then, this is now, and the knock-out stages of the World Cup. The last time England and Germany met in the World Cup was the 1990 semi final when England were beaten on penalties, and many (myself included) fear this could be the scenario again.

When asked by reporters what he would do in this situation on Sunday, Mr Cameron, perhaps jokingly, said “I will try not to wrestle her [Merkel] to the ground during penalties, but we will have to see.

But the message from the new Europe Minister David Lidington was far more pronounced and somewhat less diplomatic as he spoke to London’s Evening Standard:

We should be giving 100 per cent support to our own team hoping that they beat the stuffing out of the Germans on the soccer field …and then England and German fans having a few friendly beers together after the game.

Diplomats have already had a tricky time this World Cup as the ‘special-relationship’ between the USA and the UK has come under review following President Obama’s comments RE the BP oil spill coming to the fore in a group-stage contest between the two that finished 1-1. Diplomatically a very fair result (especially considering the supposed vast gap in quality between the two squads).

French president Nicolas Sarkozy is unlikely to address the subject after he summoned star-striker Thierry Henry to personally explain what went wrong, nor is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi following their nations’ dismal showing in South Africa and surprise eliminations.

However, Mr Cameron has revealed that Mr Berlusconi has shifted his allegiances and has started supporting England: "I commiserated with Prime Minister Berlusconi about the Italian team, but he is now claiming Fabio Capello as one of his own, and is going to be supporting England, so I have notched up one supporter," Mr Cameron told Sky News television.

But what will this do for German-Italian relations over the weekend?

As for the ‘big game’ on Sunday, Mr Cameron has told journalists that "I just want an England win. One goal is enough." Ms Merkel, on the other hand, has expressed her hope Germany can prevail saying "I am quite hopeful that we have a chance to win against England, but that is a big challenge of course.
Germany have surpassed England in EVERY World Cup since 1966, and EVERY time the two have met it has gone to penalties.
Diplomats from both sides as well as all those watching the game in England and Germany will be hoping the match is not decided this way again…

UPDATE (28/06):

Well the game did not pan out as England fans had hoped and Mr Lidington's rallying cry clearly was misunderstood and encouraged the German team who then 'beat the stuffing' out of the English team as they comprehensively won 4-1 in Bloemfontein.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Canada, where the English and German leaders were meeting, Ms Merkel watched the second half alongside Mr Cameron with whom the result cannot have sat comfortably - even if he has no real interest in football.

As for Ms Merkel, you can tell she was pleased - watch the sly smile...

(Video source

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