Return of Germany squad with ‘Das Ding’ brings huge crowds to streets of Berlin
Half a million people come out to welcome home national side on return from World Cup
Joachim Löw and his four-star movement were given a heroes’ welcome as the World Cup joined forces with the Love Parade for a glorious Berlin comeback.
After a 24-year abstinence, half a million people cheered the return of the golden trophy to the Brandenburg Gate on a beautiful, sunny day to remember.
The first fans at the “fan mile” drove through the night, cross-country from Cologne, to secure the best places at 4am. After an eight-hour wait, with the fan mile long closed due to overcrowding, they roared with delight as national manager Joachim Löw strode down the green catwalk.
“We’re delighted to be here, without you all we wouldn’t be here, we are all world champions,” said a low-key Löw, wearing Top Gun-style shades and a crooked, delighted smile.
Then the party volume was jacked up to 11, Spinal Tap-style, as the first players emerged. Seven weeks of tension, an all-night flight from Brazil, several early-morning beers and the strong midday sun conspired to cause the first signs of football player fatigue. But, like a cold shower, the wave of euphoria washing over the stage lifted their tired faces into smiles as their World Cup win over Argentina in Rio began to sink in.
Grasping the heavy trophy, known colloquially here as “Das Ding”, the diminutive captain Philipp Lahm was given a giant’s welcome as he strode out last before the Brandenburg Gate. The famous Berlin landmark, site of so many historic moments, now has another glorious notch on its pillars.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a child,” said Lahm. “What we experienced in the last seven weeks is just unbelievable.”
One player after another struck a note of euphoric modesty, lead by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the best goalkeeper of the tournament. Asked about the secret of his success, he said: “The boys stood in front of me and made it easy for me.
“Super” Mario Götze, the man who saved the day with his last-minute goal against Argentina that will be replayed in 40 years, refused to accept any special laurels on-stage.
“It’s a dream but we are world champions and the whole team has earned that,” he said. “This is a special feeling for every individual fan and German. ”
Angela Merkel’s favourite Bastian Schweinsteiger, still sporting a plaster under his eye, thanked the fans for coming.
“We all saw each other here in 2006 and finally we have this damn Ding!” he cheered.
Lukas Podolski, draped in a Cologne flag, bathed in the atmosphere and “the most amazing moment of my career . . . so far.”
The beautiful day began just after 10am at Berlin’s Tegel airport. After an extra low flight over the fan mile in their Lufthansa flight 2014 – christened “Fanhansa” for the day, Lahm emerged with his golden hand luggage. Schweinsteiger followed, a German flag draped casually around his shoulders.
The first of many cheers of the day went up from the packed-to-capacity viewing terrace, shut hours earlier due to overcrowding.
By the time the team, in black t-shirts, boarded a special open-topped truck for the final stretch to the Brandenburg Gate, the city was already partying like it was 1989.
The time plan was long in the bin but this was not the day for German punctuality. The truck crawled through the packed streets, taking two hours to cover three kilometres. By the time they got to the gate, feeling the first hunger pangs, the team stormed the waiting buffet. Enjoying their first Bockwurst in seven weeks, Per Mertesacker and Thomas Müller peeked out a window of the bank beside the gate to get the first glimpse of the crowd that awaited them.
As the team stocked up on sausages and brezels, local singer Andreas Bourani warmed up the already baking crowd with the official team anthem: “Here’s us to us . . . and an everlasting day.”
Everything went smoothly, though the antics of Miroslav Klose, the World Cup goal champion, hit a dud note with some in the crowd.
“I’ve been here a few times . . . ,” said the World Cup goal champion, breaking off as the crowd cheered and waved “King Klose 16” flags.
The elder man of the German side led a gang of players onto the stag mocking the Argentinians as “gauchos”, bent over in defeat, and the Germans as heroes, walking tall. Many in the crowd were unsure how to react, but a storm followed on social media, particularly from those watching from outside the capital and annoyed to miss the party.
“Do Berliners have no jobs?” asked one Spiegel Online reader in Frankfurt. Another, in Cologne, wrote: “Could they have not held the festival in the evening so us normal people could party, too?”
But the flashes of negative comment were soon washed away by the endorphin rush in Berlin. The one-hour party ended with a bang as German schlager superstar Helene Fischer lead the team in a spontaneous on-stage conga, singing her hit song “Breathless”.
As the team vanished for their well-earned holiday, the fans drifted off into the Tiergarten park, a moving army of black-red-gold polyester, cheering: “The number one in the world, that’s us.”