Hundreds of thousands of German fans in this soccer-crazy country were stunned, and sometimes in tears, after they gathered in downtown centers and bars to cheer on their national soccer team Sunday — only to see it lose the World Cup final to Brazil.
As the crowd of 3,000 filed away from Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, many Germans remained in front of the large screen, holding their faces and crying after the final whistle blew on one of the best finals in recent memory.
“I’ve so disappointed that we didn’t win — I really thought I’d do it,” said Kristin Klawikowksi, 22.
“I just can’t talk, I’m speechless,” said Uwe Bindl, decked out from head to foot in the national colors of red, yellow and black.
Several fans in Leipzig were arrested after they pelted police with bottles and firecrackers following Ronaldo’s 79th minute goal, while there also were isolated reports of the Germans shouting obscenities at Brazilians decked out in their green and-white colors.
But there also were celebrations in places like western Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm boulevard, where thousands still turned up to set off firecrackers and formed convoys of cars, honking horns and waving flags.
“The people are celebrating because it was so unexpected that we even reached the final,” said Timo Wiegert, celebrating a German team that experts had predicted would be knocked out in the early rounds.
“Now we’re all looking forward to the 2006 World Cup here in Germany,” he added.
People quietly filed away from city center screenings across the country, from the 35,000 gathered at Munich’s Leopoldstrasse in the south — a bigger crowd than the city’s annual Oktoberfest — to the 50,000 gathered in the north in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district.
In St. Pauli, people climbed lamp posts and jostled so hard to catch a view of the game on the big screen that police reported several passed out and needed medical treatment.
“I’m so disappointed — I don’t want to do this anymore,” said Inga Roehrs, 22, heading for the subway while German fans around her still waved flags on a day when unseasonal cold and rain raked the port city.
At Frankfurt, 12,000 people sporting the national colors of red, yellow and black in everything from flags to face paint filled the Roemer, the city’s central square. As far as the eye could see, the crowds filled side streets.
The capital’s Potsdamer Platz erupted with nonstop chants of “Deutschland, Deutschland.” Again and again cheers of “Ollie, Ollie!” went up as their standout goalie, Oliver Kahn, thwarted Brazilian scoring chances. Still, it was Kahn’s mistake that led to Brazil’s first goal.
A moan went through the crowd after Ronaldo’s 67th minute go-ahead goal, and when the Brazilian superstar scored again 12 minutes later, many began to leave the big screen set up inside the huge Sony Center.
The largely teenage crowd was also filled with spectators waving the green-and-yellow Brazilian flags, while groups of women from the South American country danced as the pictures of the players flickered across the large screen.
A touring car race in the southern German city of Nuremberg was delayed until after the match, but 80,000 crowded into the Norisring track beforehand to watch the battle of soccer superpowers on a large screen.
The streets of the eastern city of Erfurt were nearly empty, police reported, for it was one of few cities that didn’t have a large screen set up downtown and nearly everyone stayed home to cheer on their team.
In Bremen, 15,000 gathered at the cathedral, but many soon left because the screen wasn’t big enough for people in the rear to get a view of the action. In Leipzig’s downtown, several people were heated for heatstroke among the crowd of 2,000.
Germany won its three titles in 1954, 1974 and 1990. As its young team surprisingly won one match after another hopes rose the country could finally regain the trophy.
Soccer, and especially the national team, has grown into a huge institution in the country, a result of the 1954 World Cup title, which restored pride in the Germans devastated by their own dark role in World War II.
On Monday, the official homecoming reception for the German national team will take place in Frankfurt.