Summer Fairytale

Flags Flapping From Their Car Doors, Football Unites Like Almost Nothing Else

Opinion | Marlies Dachler | July / August 2008

Even after the Austrian team was eliminated in the group phase, fans were still chanting "Immer wieder, immer wieder, immer wieder Österreich!" (Austria Yet Again! Austria Yet Again! Austria Yet Again!). People wore Austrian jerseys regardless of who was playing, and drove around with little Austrian flags flapping from their car doors. Football unites like almost nothing else, and during the EURO 2008, in a country very sensitive to nationalistic ambitions, Austrians all seemed to support their team unconditionally.

But it was exactly that which nobody expected from them. Nobody actually thought the EURO would be able to stir emotions the way the 2006 World Cup had in Germany. The motto "expect emotions" was sneered at, especially in relation to indifferent and un-enthusiastic Austrians who have been largely ashamed of the team’s performance in the not-so-distant past, and had even demanded their withdrawal from the championship.

But contrary to expectations, enthusiasm grew from game to game; the team was not only spared the 0-9 humiliations of the past, but was actually playing quite well. A tight defeat against Croatia, and a tie against Poland even kept Austrians’ hopes of qualifying for the quarterfinals alive for almost four more days. Even if nobody actually believed in a victory against Germany, they dreamed of a second Cordoba, and viewer ratings were unequalled on Austrian television.

All in all, the championship was a peaceful celebration of football passion. Even if two teams’ fans were competing for who could cheer the loudest, hostility, in most cases, stopped as soon as the final whistle was blown. Visitors in the Vienna Fan Zone even voiced the wish for more events like the EURO in summers to come.

Experiencing the magical atmosphere and playing the good host obviously inspired a nation that had been so pessimistic. And even if the wish for another EURO is fairly unrealistic, Austrians can keep cheering and helping their players score. And who knows, they might even qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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