Germany's national team has done its home country proud throughout the UEFA Euro 2012 soccer championships, despite a disappointing 1-2 defeat in a June 28 semi-final match against Italy in Warsaw.
Now Italy will advance to the final to play Spain on July 1 in Kiev. (On this day most citizens of both countries, as well as most other Europeans, will be otherwise indisposed as they watch the game live at home, in bars or cafes, or at public outdoor jumbotron screenings.)
Many of the names of players on the German national team sound, well, quite "German", such as Manuel Neuer (goal); Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber and Per Mertesacker (defense); and Lars Bender, Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger (midfield).
Khedira is of Tunisian-German origin and Özil is a third-generation Turkish-German. Boateng is of Ghanaian-German origin; Podolski and Klose were both born in Poland; Gomez is of Spanish-German origin; and Gündogan also has German-Turkish roots.
The 23 players now on the national squad are thus a multicultural microcosm of modern Germany.
Recent media reports have in particular highlighted the friendship between Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil, who scored Germany's only goal in the Euro semi-final match against Italy. When not on the German national squad, both have pretty impressive "day jobs" playing for Real Madrid.
Spiegel Online in a profile of Özil published on June 27 described him as the shy, yet preternaturally talented, "kid brother" to a super-cool Khedira:
"Özil and Khedira are inseperable. They have the same center-parted haircut, and their dark tresses are held back during games by the same kind of headband. Khedira usually walks in front. For a stroll along the beach at the resort town of Zoppot on a recent afternoon off, Khedira wore a baseball cap, sunglasses and fashionably ripped jeans, looking like a rapper who'd brought his kid brother along. His kid brother was the international star."
They may have lost against Italy yesterday, but there are still plenty of great things in store for Özil and most of the relatively young German national squad. Their goal is to play great football. In the process of striving towards soccer superstardom, they also just happen to serve as global ambassadors for today's Germany, including a progressive and democratic society and citizenry with cultural and ethnic roots all over the world.
A special summer program brought dozens of high-school age Italian students to my university's main campus this week. They watched the game described above on the big screen in the student recreation center. They sang songs in unison to cheer and encourage their team. I've never seen anything quite like it in the US, not even at the most avid football schools. It was a beautiful sight and a beautiful sound. And... I guess it worked!