For Love Of The Turf

An Exhibit at the Künstlerhaus Brings Soccer’s Drama to Life

Opinion | Marlies Dachler | June 2008

Nowhere in life do happiness and sadness, hope and despair, victory and defeat lie closer together than in sports. Emotions define competitions all over the world, emotions, which the soccer exhibition herz:rasen in the Kunstlerhaus wants to bring to life for the Viennese and tourists under the spell of the EURO2008.

In 1999, for a brief 90 minutes, Bayern Munich seemed like the winner of the champions league until, at a time when fans had given up their hope, some of them with tears running down their cheeks painted in the colors of their club, Manchester United scored a goal. After the British had surprised the Germans with another one on the stroke of full time, the Bayern players’ worlds came apart. Goalie Oliver Kahn sat on the ground crying, punching the grass in disbelief of what had happened to them within less than three minutes.

Watching this on film, visitors in the auditorium fell silent, overwhelmed by the intense emotions on the players’ faces. Close-ups on five huge video walls stirred a deep response, as watching gladiators battling wild animals must have done for the Romans.

Equally fascinating was a room of pictures of children from all around the world practicing the sport in hopes perhaps of a future, or just to forget the horrors of daily life.

Whether it was Palestinian children in refugee camps or Brazilian children in slums, there was sparkle in their eyes while light-footedly dribbling towards a goal built of two empty plastic bottles or ragged and dirty shoes.

The other side of the exhibit covers the commercialization of sports, the treating of players like commodities. In one room, diagrams indicate the flow of players, goods traded and for how much money: For almost €75 million, Zinedine Zidane was "bought" in 2001by Real Madrid from Juventus Torino, making him the most expensive player of all time.

But David or Goliath, all games start at 0-0 and no game is won before the final whistle is blown. Most Austrians still become nostalgic about the "wonder of Cordoba," [see story p. 24] where the team from the Alpenrepublik defeated Germany in a dramatic surprise win 3-2 for the 1978 Word Cup.

Players’ jerseys, soccer shoes, pictures, and a short video still reminded the visitor of one of Austria’s most glorious soccer moments.

With only a few days until the kick-off of the first EURO2008 game, Austrians still like to reminisce about the glorious times, when qualifying for a major international tournament didn’t require being chosen as a host country, which qualifies automatically.

Until Austrians can again hoist their flags in football stadiums without being mocked, the little ones on cars, waving shyly while driving, are the only sign of people’s hidden enthusiasm.

But as the exhibition rightly pointed out, football is all about hope, faith, and love.

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