People lean over the railings of the mezzanine up above, their eyes matching the eager anticipation of the people filling the length of the beer hall, the huddled masses standing on back benches, seated close together at their tables or standing along the bar all the way back to the bathrooms.
The TVs up front — two of several throughout the pub — show the German squad taking the field, and the place erupts. Black, red, and gold waves ebulliently on the air, while dancing like a flickering candle on many a joyous face. The excited chatter, formerly vacillating between English and German, now erupts in one unified voice, spurred on by Brauhaus Schmitz owner Doug Hager’s call for us to drink it all in and enjoy:
“Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit.
“Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit….Eins, zwei, drei g’suffa!” which he caps with a mad “Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, oi, oi, oi!”
Sure, the atmosphere isn’t quite as crazed as Oktoberfest — Doug insists there were more fans present for the USA v England match- but then again it possesses a singular sense of gleeful expectation soon fulfilled, despite any concerns about Michael Ballack not being able to attend the party.
Thomas Müller’s diagonal pass back through the box sets up an emphatic goal that brought on another cheer 7 minutes in: “Luca-Luca-Lucas Podolski…” With that, the crowd is not to settle down at all as the Germans are to harry the Aussies from start to finish, dominating play at midfield — the Socceroos, never a threat, seem incapable of getting more than a few feet across midfield — and moving through the Aussies’ box at will, capped with laughable certainty by the run up the flank and lateral pass that finds Cacau for Germany’s fourth tally.
And to add frenetic tingles to the charged atmosphere is the fact that the second goal of this 4-nil slaughter is scored in true German fashion: Captain Philipp Lahm serves up a perfectly curving cross to Miroslav Klose charging in from the penalty spot, who meets it with steely emphasis with the keeper wilting before him (all 5 of his World Cup ’02 were equally stunning headers).
And speaking of Ballack, Thomas Müller further showed he could wear the #13 shirt by charging ahead into the area with a Podolski pass before cutting back to let those flagging Aussie defenders overrun him, and then nailing it home inside the left post.
Oddly enough, I caught up with an Aussie as the German onslaught continued. The score clicked over to 3-0 as we talked, though I’m surprised it wasn’t 8-0 by the time we were finished.
Who Are Ya and why the hell are you here?!
Corral Scarr from Gold Coast, Australia. I wanted to be the underdog just like Australia.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!!! What were you expecting? [Another German shot just barely misses.]
Honestly or hopefully? Realistically not a lot. But I’d rather be a losing Aussie than a winning German. They tried to put a German stamp on my hand when I came in and I was like, “No way!”
Ok, who wins in a fight — still alive Steve Erwin or David Hasselhoff?
Fuck’s sake…Irwin wrestles crocodiles! Fuckin’ Hasselhoff is a pretty boy and Steve has the Aussie spirit. [An impassioned ‘FOR FUCK’S SAKE !’ slips out as Tim Cahill earns a red for sliding late into Bastian Schweinsteiger. Down 2-0 and at 10 men close to the start of the 2nd half, the Aussies look cooked.]
How big of a fan are you? Do you follow the A League back home?
I got into soccer in 2007 through my boyfriend who is in South Africa. I’m over here ( in Chadsford) working as an au pair. I follow Gold Coast United. We have Schwarzer, the keeper, and Jason Culina on the squad. I go to about four games a season. Schwarzer is playing like crap though [As he gets back to make a stunning save after breaking up a play]. He shouldn’t have been that far out in the first place.
So Culina’s your favorite then?
[Breaking into song] Jason Culina, you are the love of my life, Jason Culina, I’d let you sleep with my wife.
Would you really?
Well, it’s not really a girl’s song.
But if you did have a wife, would you be open to such a thing?
Of course. He’s amazing.
So, the A League faces the same pitfalls as MLS does – it’s not the dominant sport and it doesn’t match up calendar wise with the top leagues in the world. Do you see it as progressing?
It’s getting there. Australia tried years ago with another league that died but it’s definitely getting there. It’s been around for about 5 years now. Most people watch the AFL or rugby. No else in the world plays AFL. Sure, the rugby people think soccer is for pansies but they feel the same about Aussie rules football anyway.
[Thomas Müller makes it 3-0]
Ouch…so how do you see your side doing after this?
We can do it. If we play like tonight- no. We can play much better. I saw them play Iraq in Brisbane last year, and they were much better. And we’re playing too defensive. Whenever we get into their half it’s 6 Germans vs 2 Aussies- they’re scared. I expect us to rebound though. You’ll see much better from us.
The match concluded, I strike up conversation with more jubilant spirits, a trio of au pairs –unknown to their Aussie counterpart- having two months left on a ten month stint stateside, two coming from Germany, the other from Switzerland.
Who are ya? Where are you staying in PA?
Sara Wiersch. I’m staying with a family in Horsham, PA.
Where are you from in Germany?
A village called Welver in the town of Soest, which is ½ hour away from Dortmund.
Are you a big soccer, er, fussball fan?
Yes, definitely. I love following Germany and I used to play.
In high school and university?
It’s not the same as in the states. Every village has a team.
Did you expect this very one-sided result coming into the match?
Yea, we expected to beat them very well.
How far can Germany go?
I think they’ll do pretty well- at least the final four. They have a pretty young team. It’s risky but I think they’ll get there. They’ll definitely have to beat Ghana because Ballack was injured by [Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince] Boateng who also, due to his dual citizenship, preferred Ghana over us.
Who are ya? Where are you from?
Maike Rütter. Cologne, Germany.
What do you think of Germany’s chances now?
Very confident. They have young talented players like Müller and our keeper Neuer, along with a great qualifying record.
The expectations were not high on this team going in. What do you think is the mindset of the Germany players?
They’re more ambitious because they lost in Germany [in the Final] and they want to prove everyone wrong, to silence the many critics in the media who say they’re too young or washed up.
Yea, Klose and Podolski look set to rebound from recent letdowns in club play, and Müller definitely silenced concerns about his inexperience with his man of the match style play.
So, you three have been here for 10 months. What do you think of the appreciation of soccer here?
I don’t think it’s popular at all. Not to watch on TV. It’s popular to play as a child…the kids play but the parents don’t know the game.
Have you been to any soccer pubs besides this one much? That’s definitely still the case far too often, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was two decades ago. The fan base is much larger and more rabid then even our media realizes.
That’s what I see from the family I stay with in the suburbs…maybe in ten to twenty years the team will be better with more talented players.
Perhaps it will only take the next round for our level of talent to show itself. But for Oliver Kahn’s fingertips, we would have been through to the round of 8 in ’02.
We would love to play the U.S. again.
Remember those words. I’m sure you’ll be here. Is this your spot for the games?
We come here often, though we only made it for the 2nd half. We were at The Piazza for the 1st half but left because there weren’t any fans there.
How does Braushaus Schmitz match up with back home?
Good compared to the German atmosphere. It’s a really cool spot. I feel like we’re back home.
I don’t feel like I’m on South Street.
We’re not from Bavaria but still, it’s pretty German.
Germany’s looking really solid after kicking around a decent side. Who scares you in the competition?
We just don’t want to see Brazil or Argentina any time soon. We can beat anyone, but if we have to I’d only want to see one of those two and hopefully not early on.