The 2010 FIFA World Cup is just two days away and the tension is rising right across the planet. The same can be said about Germany, which is looking forward to another strong performance by its team, "Die Mannschaft".
Until a few days ago I didn't have the feeling that a football World Cup is around the corner, but over the last few days one could see across the streets of Germany its World Cup time. It seems like it is again the summer of 2006 when Germany hosted the World Cup. One feature is once more prominently visible - the German flag. And this is something which only started in 2006 ahead of the FIFA World Cup that suddenly Germans were willing to show national pride publicly, which has always been an issue since the second World War. Too much national pride was somewhat not allowed nor wanted as people would be branded nationalists, which here meant to be a Nazi.
It is different e.g. with Germany's neighbour the Netherlands who have been painting their cities in Oranje, their traditional Orange colour, for ages.
But Germany went through a massive change in the summer of 2006. The perception of Germany around the world changed. Suddenly Germans were seen as friendly, outgoing and welcoming; while earlier they would rather be known as punctual, hard working something like robots.
And the biggest change came for the Germans themselves. They would now show national pride publicly. Flags hanging out of cars became en vogue as was the German flag in general. People would hang it out of their windows, public transport would fly the flag, as where people sporting the flag in many different ways.
It was somewhat similar during Euro2008 in Austria and Switzerland with the large immigrant communities also showing their allegiance with their countries of origin. The highlight surely was the Germany vs Turkey semifinal were tensions could be felt, but nothing untoward happened across the country.
And every evening you would have someone or the other driving through town honking and showing their national colours. It is a lovely party atmosphere.
Now Turkey and Croatia didn't qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and many of these immigrants are now openly supporting Germany. The Croatians will support Germany especially when they face Serbia on June 18.
My home city of Remscheid is sporting a look in black-red-gold with some Italian and Spanish flags there to be seen. There are numerous flags you can see through windows, even my parents have placed a German flag in our window. Our neighbours on the other side of the road have a flag hanging across their windows, while the café in the square is also sporting Germany colours.
It goes on with each bus having a small German flag on top of it; many cars sporting one, two or even four flags with the latest craze being covers in Germany colours for the sideview mirror. In shopping centres each shop has something to sell in Germany colours or in the black-and-white of the national team. You cannot get away from the World Cup hype.
A national campaign by a car major which has gained big interest is the "Fourth star for Germany". As three time FIFA World Cup winners Germany sports three stars on their jersey's. And now this campaign supports Germany gaining their fourth star by winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Also suddenly female friends of mine who do not care about football at all are taking about Germany's chances to win the trophy and who is the best looking footballer. Okay the second issue is something which I would not need discuss, but I still have to listen to. Yes it is World Cup time and everyone is part of it...