If you mention the word “football” to most Germans, then being English you are liable to be involved in a discussion about that goal.
Yes, the goal that took England 3-2 up against West Germany in extra time of the World Cup final at Wembley in 1966 thanks to a decision by a Russian linesman that most German football supporters have been disputing ever since.
One lesser known fact about that match is that Helmut Haller who scored the first goal for Germany kept the ball, as is the tradition here, rather than Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick and by English tradition should have been allowed to keep it. Haller returned the ball 30 years later.
But once you get past discussing whether it was a goal or not, the self-proclaimed German football experts like to remind you how often England have gone on to lose against their team, especially the last match at the old Wembley stadium and World Cup qualifier in 2000.
So it’s worth reminding them that in the return match in Munich in 2001 England beat them 5-1 – one of the worst ever defeats for the German national team – at which point the subject is usually quickly changed.
The strange thing is that the Germans actually like playing against the English side. They even look forward to it, and call it one of the “classic” international games.
This week England and Germany were both playing to qualify for the second round of the World Cup in South Africa. I was in Cologne and able to observe how many German fans were supporting England during their match. They wanted them to get through to the next round. They wanted to play them next.
There is, of course, no doubt about which team they will be supporting tomorrow evening, although I have heard the opinion expressed that they would rather lose to England now than to Argentina in the quarter final (with the added bonus of seeing another “classic”: England v Argentina).
I on the other hand will hopefully be cheering at the opposite moments to the rest of our building, and looking forward to further discussions and analysis with my clients in the coming week, however the game turns out.
When I was asked this week for my prediction, I always gave a diplomatic answer: “It’ll go to penalties”.