The German national team will only gradually realise the unbelievable damage they caused with their goofy gesture before the kick off against Japan- keeping their mouths shut as a sign of protest. Perhaps the least damage is that it robbed the German team of its concentration for the match against Japan.
Losing a game at the World Cup - it can happen. Being eliminated from the World Cup in Qatar in the preliminary round is a more serious matter for Germany. It is, after all, the third elimination in a row in an important international tournament. This did not happen by accident. There is something structural behind it. Germany, once a powerful football nation, has a real problem. It cannot only be explained by the fact that the players were unfocused or that the coach chose the wrong line-up or decided on the wrong tactics. The problem lies much deeper.
It lies in the mentality, in the attitude towards oneself and towards others.
In order to be successful in competition, you have to know where you stand, what role you play in comparison to others and how your opponent is to be assessed. The mentality problems of the German team and the German Football Association DFB are quickly named: colossal overestimation of oneself. Lack of seriousness towards themselves and towards the game. But above all, the German team and the German officials lacked respect. Respect for the opponent, for the international rules and for the host of the tournament.
The gesture of covering the mouth in front of the world's television cameras before the match is now coming back at the Germans like a boomerang. The damage the national team has done to the Germans' reputation in the world will only gradually become visible, and it will last for a long time.
The least of the damage is that Germany is no longer the role model and favourite of many football fans worldwide. The German team played lousy football in Qatar and was rightly eliminated. That is sad and it is damaging to the image of German football. One can live with that. But the German team was covered with malice. That is bad.
Many people around the world are partly restrained and partly openly happy that the Germans had to go home. This has nothing to do with football, it is the result of the goofy gesture with which the Germans entered the tournament.
According to the national team and the officials, the gesture was meant to show that the national team stands up for human rights. It therefore considered itself to be particularly bold, particularly courageous, particularly exemplary. But in reality it was something else: it was haughty, it was condescending, and it was arrogant. They trumped up and thereby elevated themselves above everyone. They violated the rules of decency, the rules of international football and, above all, they violated the basic commandment of all hospitality: respect.
Have the Germans forgotten that the basic idea of major international sporting events is international understanding? The attempt to understand the other better - by meeting and exchanging friendly ideas and thus getting to know each other better? Should one judge before one knows and understands the specifics of the other? Should one place oneself morally above someone else if one wants to get along well with them and perhaps become friends?
But the Germans came to Qatar with a firm judgement: We are vastly superior! Seldom has a self-assessment been more wrong. This applies to football as well as to other things. A glance at the deaths on German building sites and the number of disenfranchised workers in the EU could have quickly taught them otherwise. Germany is no beacon there.
How can one explain this arrogance? As a German, I find it difficult to get an explanation other than ignorance and a moral arrogance that is hard to explain. The restraint that Germans imposed on themselves after the catastrophe of the Second World War no longer seems to exist. Suddenly we are world champions of morality.
German media have contributed significantly to the moral overheating. They have - for whatever reason, and sensationalism is one of them - been working for years on a moral pyre for the host Qatar. Those who did not cooperate had to fear being burned themselves.
Not all German journalists played along with the game, there are laudable exceptions. But the large public broadcasters ARD and ZDF were at the forefront of the executioners, for whom the criticism of the host country Qatar could not be severe enough. And here it was above all the sports editors who were conspicuous for their nefariousness. Whereas sports programmes on German TV used to show mainly images of sport and only marginally dealt with sports politics, it is now the other way round: today it is mainly about politics and moving images of sport only play a marginal role. The political editorial departments of the broadcasters, who know more about foreign policy, have been pushed to the sidelines.
And then there were various NGOs that exerted considerable pressure. Their accusations were often baseless and, moreover, were often not legitimised by anything other than their presumption.
The German Football Association gave in to this pressure from the media and NGOs. As did many German politicians. One of the most embarrassing performances in this context was the appearance of the German Federal Minister of the Interior with a colourful armband at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. She speculated on the applause of the German media and apparently completely forgot what problems Germany's domestic policy is currently responsible for. Above all, she did not notice that her provocative action seemed like an attack on the host Qatar and, moreover, against all Muslim countries. In this respect, she is a prime example of the cluelessness, lack of instinct and arrogance to which many in Germany have currently fallen prey.
The German Football Association misused the World Cup in Qatar for political purposes. The DFB has misused the national team for its political goals. It now turns out that the team was not united behind the gesture from the team photo. There were individual players who spoke out against it. But they had to go along.
It would do the German Football Association good to learn from its double failure. From the failure on the pitch and from the one off the pitch. It would do the DFB good to keep the mouth shut now. DFB should show some humility and the ability to learn. The same goes for the media and politics.
The ability to learn is supposed to be one of the German qualities in general. In business, in politics and also in football. In this respect, many hope that at least this German virtue is still effective. As I suspect that many people in the world want to see good German football again. Or am I mistaken?

*Jürgen Hogrefe is based in Berlin. He is the former Middle East correspondent to German news magazine DER SPIEGEL

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