11 meters of pain.

 

Being English in Germany has many upsides, however when it comes to football it all gets a little complicated. Whenever I meet someone new the conversation inevitably turns to football. The initial question of what part of England I hail from, the answer being Newcastle, I am either greeted with “Where?” or “Ahhh, Newcastle United!”. The international language of football has come to my rescue numerous times during bland small talk, and yet it sometimes grates on me when the discussion leads to questions of international football and the rivalry between my home and adopted nation.  This is especially true of any discussion that turns to penalties, with England holding a woeful record of only one competitive win against Spain, while Germany hold an enviable record of never having been beaten on spot kicks.

What I always find interesting about living in another country is the terminology for certain things, especially when it comes to sport, and what that can say about a culture. German football fans don’t refer to penalties, here they’re called 11 meters or Elf meter. When English football fans talk about penalties at any level, from pub team to premiership, there is a certain ache and certainly a sense of foreboding. It’s safe to say Englishmen don’t like the word, which hints at punishment and retribution. However, in Germany it’s only 11 meters, the distance from spot to goal, there is not an emotive element in consideration. When it comes down to it what are you more scared of? Penalties or eleven meters. Maybe therein lies the answer to Germany’s continual success at penalty shoot outs, no one can really be afraid of a simple matter of distance. Granted this might be too simplistic an answer, then again it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong. In the end though Germany is not always invincible, as Bayern Munich discovered to their cost two weeks ago. As they dramatically lost to Chelsea on penalties,  it did occur to me that even the best have to pay unfair penalties…

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