When Italy won the World Cup in 2006, my father took me, then aged ten, to the Little Italy section of Manhattan to witness the celebrations. I thought it was the most electrifying experience, as I had never been to a celebratory parade before, but at the time I was too young to truly understand the significance of winning the World Cup. But tonight in Berlin gave me a whole new understanding as to what winning a World Cup can do to lift the spirits and unite a country, especially one that as recently as 25 years ago was divided in two. Seeing the joy on the German people’s faces and their emotional reactions at almost every play was something I will surely never forget.
My original plan was to attend the FIFA fan festival at the Brandenburg Gate, but upon my arrival to Berlin from Barcelona at 7 PM local time, I learned that the festival had reached capacity at approximately 5 PM, a full four hours before kickoff. Therefore they were not allowing anyone else in. So plan B had to be executed. So it was decided that watching the match at a place that would be occupied by local Germans and not foreign tourists was the best idea. Therefore, I asked the concierge at our hotel for a recommendation. He suggested a location called Kulturbrauerei in the gentrified Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin and I hopped on the U-Bahn (Berlin’s subway system) and headed over there.
Kulturbrauerei is a brewery that encompasses a 25,000 square meter courtyard that’s made for prime World Cup viewing. Unfortunately, the pouring rain combined with the prevalence of cigarette smoke (something that I am not accustomed to at home in New York as smoking is banned in most places) was starting to bother me, so I decided to leave the public viewing space and find a nice restaurant to get dinner and watch some of the match.
Across the street from Kulturbrauerei was Pizza Nostra, a small pizza joint that was showing the match. After eating some of the most delicious pizza I have ever had, I sat down and watched the first half with about fifteen others. They were mostly quiet and only rose up at major chances, which the first half mostly failed to provide. The group held its collective breath when an errant German header sent Gonzalo Higuain through one on one with Manuel Neuer, but the group breathed a collective sigh of relief when his shot drifted wide. When Higuain’s goal was disallowed for offside in the 30th minute, the lone Argentina fan in the group revealed himself, opening himself up for some heckling for the rest of the half. The rest of the first half passed without any real incidents of note.
At halftime, the rain had stopped and I decided to make another attempt at watching at Kulturbrauerei and bid adieu to Pizza Nostra.
The atmosphere at Kulturbrauerei for the second half and extra time was very different from Pizza Nostra, and provided the most unforgettable atmosphere to watch a World Cup match that was distinctly German. The courtyard was extremely packed, and probably had around ten to fifteen thousand people at its peak. The vast majority of people had some kind of German apparel on, whether it be a jersey, face paint of draped in a German flag. The fans engaged in the typical round of German songs (which unfortunately I am not familiar with and did not understand) at various points throughout the second half. As the match went towards extra time, the faces of the people became more and more strained, hands started to be buried in faces, and the party atmosphere started to become very tense. Every scoring opportunity was met with more animated cheers or groans, as the vast majority realized that a goal before the full time interval would win the World Cup. When Miroslav Klose was substituted off in the 88th minute, it was greeted with a very sad, slow clap, as many realized this could be the last time they would see the World Cup’s all time leading scorer in a tournament match.