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FOOTBALL

Germany reaches fever pitch for Euro final

Chanting "Deutschland, Deutschland!" and still hours from kickoff, throngs of flag-waving German football fans were warming up on Sunday for the grand finale of Euro 2008 of Germany versus Spain.

Germany reaches fever pitch for Euro final
Photo: DPA

In Berlin crowds of fans with their faces painted in black, red and gold were heading in high spirits to the central “Fan Mile” where half a million spectators were expected to follow the match on large screens.

“I think Germany will win 3-1,” Mark, a 23-year-old insurance salesman who travelled almost 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Hamburg, predicted confidently with a beer in his hand and wearing a German flag as a cape.

The scene was similar in other towns and cities, with huge crowds expected at public viewing areas to watch the match beamed in from Vienna while tens of millions will be glued to their TVs at home.

Vendors have been doing a brisk trade in flags, facepaints and national football shirts in a country now much more comfortable with patriotism ever since the 2006 World Cup was held in Germany.

In all, 85 percent of the country’s 82 million population will follow the match, according to a survey in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, bringing the country to a halt.

German automakers like Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi plan to shut down production during the game so that their workers can follow the match before the conveyor belts and Europe’s biggest economy grind back into action after the final whistle.

The country was however on tenterhooks on news that their talismanic captain Michael Ballack might not take to the field after hurting his leg in training at the team’s base in southern Switzerland.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact that Germany will have its work cut out to overcome an in-form Spanish side, 72 percent believe their side will win the “Wunder von Wien” (the Vienna wonder), according to the Bild am Sonntag poll.

“Ballack injured!,” the top-selling paper’s front page screams. “But we are going to win the cup anyway!” Only one in five took the more pessimistic view – including none other than Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück who perhaps unwisely predicts a 3-1 hammering, the paper said. Eight percent were hedging their bets.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was shown literally jumping for joy in Basel when the winning goal against Turkey hit the back of the net on Wednesday, will watch the match in Vienna along with President Horst Köhler and other ministers.

Merkel became a regular in the stands during the World Cup. She has even taken to giving the players some motherly advice, and after the Turkey match gave an interview in the flash zone area usually reserved for players and managers.

Her spokesman had to keep the chancellor informed by text message of the score in the game against Portugal while she was tied up with more serious matters at an EU summit on June 19. A parade has been organised in central Berlin for Monday for the players – even if they lose – and the city authorities have asked schools to give pupils the afternoon off so they can attend.

“It is very important for us that the team will be greeted by its supporters back in Germany. Berlin has become like a second home to us since the 2006 World Cup,” Löw said.

Only one in five German televisions were tuned into something else as almost 30 million viewers were glued to Wednesday’s semi-final thriller against Turkey, and Sunday’s final was not expected to be any less of a crowd-puller.

Offers attempting to tempt TV viewers away from the football include the Rowan Atkinson comedy “Johnny English” – dubbed into German – and a programme about real-life animal capers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, And as always there is a “Schlager” show, that perennial prime-time institution devoted to swingalong oompah songs about falling in love,

mountains and lederhosen.

“I am sure that our team is going to succeed,” President Köhler said in a column in the top-selling Bild newspaper on Sunday. “Our opponent is strong…but with their fire in their bellies the German team can beat them.”

POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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