It was appropriate that Steffi Jones was at hand last Sunday for the opener of the Women’s World Cup in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. Steffi Jones for those of you who don’t know is the half American, half German former women’s soccer star who retired in 2007 and in 2011 became the president of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. One had to wonder however what she would have thought of the German national team’s decision to pose for a Playboy spread just weeks before the opening game in an attempt to dispel the idea that female soccer players are butch. In any case over 73,000 spectators turned out to watch the German team face off against the Canadians in what is to be the only game played in Berlin.
A dark history
The Olympic Stadium was originally built by Otto March for the 1916 Olympic Games which never took place due to WWI. His son Werner March rebuilt the stadium for the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin in which Jesse Owens stole the spotlight by winning four gold medals to the dismay of the Nazi propaganda machine. Most people remember Owens as the winner who forced Hitler to sneak away from the games without having to shake his hand but even in America as an African American he was also snubbed by then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Better seats than the Chancellor
Through the wife of a fellow American ex-pat who was volunteering at the event. I was lucky enough to get seats just 17 rows back from the field, roughly 15 rows in front of Angela Merkel, Christian Wulff and the afore mentioned Steffi Jones. I had never been inside the stadium before and having better seats than the president and chancellor of Germany was thrilling and although I am a big fan of most things German, especially when Germans get a chance to assert their pride, my love of the underdog got the better of me and I did my best to show my support for the Canadians for the entirety of the 90 minute match.
The German’s however dominated the match and the two Canadian drives, one which ended in a penalty shot and a goal for Team Canada were the only times the stadium fell deathly quiet. To my amusement it seemed the German fans had discovered the wave which went on almost non-stop throughout the entire game. The German side clearly outplayed the Canadians and the ball was in the Canadian half of the field for most of the game. The first goal came after only 10 minutes of play when Kerstin Garefrekes caught a beautiful cross and headed it into the back of the net. The second German goal came shortly before halftime as Celia Okoyino da Mbabi dribbled past the defenders and tapped the ball into the goal past the Canadian goalkeeper’s charge.
One week on it looks like Canada and Nigeria will not be advancing in group A while France and Germany will make it to the next round. In group B it looks as though England and Japan will be advancing while Mexico and New Zealand will be left behind. In group C it will be Sweden and the USA moving forward with Korea and Colombia having to settle for third and fourth place. In group D it will be Brazil and either Norway or Australia. I will be rooting for a USA vs German final. May the best team win!