Germans See World Cup Win as a Symbol of Global Might
On the Kurfuerstendamm, the gleaming street of stores and restaurants that was the symbol of West Berlin during the Cold War, cars quickly jammed traffic and fans draped themselves in the black, red and gold of the German flag.
Even normally quiet streets were electrified early Monday by Germany's dramatic 1-0 win of the World Cup in extra time, a victory that symbolized, at least to fans, not just the country's dominance of Europe, but its global prominence. Car horns and vuvuzelas honked, and fireworks and firecrackers exploded. (Germany Win World Cup)
On the Kurfuerstendamm, the gleaming street of stores and restaurants that was the symbol of West Berlin during the Cold War, cars quickly jammed traffic and fans draped themselves in the black, red and gold of the German flag. (Mario Goetze, Germany's Superhero)
"I am the happiest man alive," said Jacob Vogely, 25, who was just a baby when the Berlin Wall fell and produced similar jams in probably the greatest party this city has ever seen. Match Highlights
Sam Schoeneberg, also 25, called the final a "heart attack," given the six or seven minutes the whole country seemed to hold its breath after Mario Goetze scored the decisive goal. Messi Vomits on Pitch
Goetze had not even been born the last time Germany won the World Cup, in 1990, beating Argentina then, too. Fan on Pitch Stops World Cup Final
That victory came to symbolize the unification of Germany; this one, ardent fans said early Monday, will usher in an era of further prosperity for Europe's economic powerhouse.
"I'm not going to be able to get rid of this grin," said Christoph Nitsche, 29, an industrial mechanic, as he stood outside a tapas bar in Frankfurt that, like almost all restaurants and bars across the country, had set up a large-screen television outside. "Now we're free."
Asked if the victory had any larger consequences for Germany, Nitsche took a drag on a cigarette, thought for a moment, and said: "There's going to be an economic upswing. People are in a good mood."
That mood was reflected in the evident joy with which the country's president, Joachim Gauck, and the normally restrained chancellor, Angela Merkel, embraced each player in Rio de Janeiro as they received their victors' medals.
The German victory could easily be seen as emblematic of the country's economic and political pre-eminence in Europe and its economic comeback of the last decade. In 1990, the nation was embarking on a long, costly odyssey of reunification.
In 2002, when the German team finished second, the country was still seen as the sick man of Europe, too set in its ways in a world that demanded innovation.
But Germany proved it could change.
The rebound of the German economy came after a national overhaul that reduced barriers to hiring and firing and obstacles for entrepreneurs.
At the same time, a revitalization of the German youth soccer development program helped produce the team that beat Argentina on Sunday night.
By contrast, the biggest losers in Brazil included European countries that have struggled to revive their own economies, as Germany did.
This German team reflected a society that has become more diverse and tolerant, albeit with limits.
This squad was much more ethnically diverse than the all-white 1990 champions. The German team in Brazil included defender Jerome Boateng, with roots in Ghana, and Sami Khedira, whose father was Tunisian.
Speaking above the crackle of fireworks, Jose Nunez, praised the team's victory. "They earned it," said Nunez, 31, a house painter who said he was of Spanish descent but born in Frankfurt. "They played the best football."
But Nunez said it was important to keep the World Cup in perspective in light of more serious world events.
Referring to the fighting in Gaza, he said, "You can't forget that people are dying."