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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK

Repeat after me: 'Come... on... Germany...'

English support for Germany in the World Cup final would be very welcome, the country's ambassador in London says. There are some good reasons why he is right.

On the football field, England has no greater sworn enemy than Germany. So it might go against the gut instincts of many English fans to back Rudi Voeller's boys in the World Cup final this weekend.

Swallowing their pride of a week ago, they may feel there is no option but to become temporary Brazilians until Sunday evening.

But the German ambassador in London, Dr Hans-Friedrich Von Ploetz, says Germans would welcome the support of English fans.

"We would of course welcome it, and especially since we are family - we are closely related with Angles and Saxons on both sides," he told BBC News Online.

It's certainly not hard to make a case that he is right.

1. Germans are now 'the home team'

Comedian Frank Skinner has declared he will be supporting Germany. "I was gutted when England went out, but Germany are Europeans so they're kind of the home team now," he said.

This embrace of Europeanism did not extend to the Sun, however, which in reporting Skinner's comments, called him Franz and illustrated him wearing lederhosen. "We've gone Brazil nuts!" it says.

2. Economic ties (and nice cars)

Without Germany, a lot of us might be on the dole. Germany is crucial to the UK's - that includes England's - economy. Its population of 82 million help make it our biggest European export market, worth £22.5bn to the UK in 2000.

Of course, the tenets of free trade mean this is a reciprocal arrangement. So in return for our non-descript machine tool exports, we get our hands on all those smooth-running German cars and chrome fridges.

A World Cup win could boost Germany's currently slothful economy, triggering a feel-good factor that might see millions of Germans rush out to the shops to buy more "Englische Produkte".

3. 'Kraut-bashing' is so passť

The old stereotypes about Germans - ruthlessly efficient, humourless, arrogant - just aren't true, says Paul Joyce of the University of Exeter.

The football team certainly hasn't shown ruthless efficiency, he says, and there isn't arrogance in Germany concerning its football team; in fact there was a sense of "surprise and amazement" in the media that it had even got to the final.

Neither is it true that the Germans can't laugh, he says. There's a strong slapstick vein of German humour, but there is also a taste for darker satire too. It may not be appreciated here partly because it's hard to recognise humour in a different language, he says.

British hostility to Germany simply isn't reciprocated, he says. It could be that by using outdated stereotypes (as is often done towards the French, the Italians and others) the British are saying more about themselves than anyone else.

In other words, perhaps it's time to let it all go. Support Germany and feel good about the English.

4. Ethnically speaking

The Germans are more than just neighbours, they are practically cousins (and in the case of our Royal Family, the Germans are indeed cousins).

The English descend from Germanic tribes that crossed the North Sea 1,500 years ago. In the 5th Century, Angles and Saxons overran much of what we now call England. As these - and other Germanic migrants - gradually inter-mingled a common language emerged, now called Old English.

English as we speak it today comes from Latin, the Pictish dialects, the Germanic tongues of the Angles and Saxons, and the Norse language of the Vikings.

So it could be a patriotic duty to support the land of the ancestors.

5. '5-1, 5-1'

If all else fails, just remember Munich. Scottish fans pride themselves on having beaten England within months of the famous 1966 victory.

So should Germany win the World Cup, England fans can look back on that wonderful night in Munich last year with an extra special glow. OK, we might not have won the World Cup ourselves, but boy did we beat the people who did.


Some of your comments so far:

I live and work in Germany, but I'd rather walk through Duesseldorf in a tutu than support Germany against Brazil!
David Gatenby, Germany

Germany has had one of the easiest run ins to the final. The only really tough match they had was against Ireland. It would be a travesty if such an unexciting team bereft of any discernable talent won the World Cup.
Tom Adams,England

Support the Germans,...sorry, no can do. It's not that I don't like the team, or the nation, it's the fact that if Brazil win the World Cup, we can at least say that we were beaten by the eventual winners
Steve H., Iceland

Right on Frank Skinner! I agree whole heartedly with all five points. Everyone should read them, including journalists from the Sun newspaper!
David, Ireland/ ex Devon

Didn't the English fans ask Scots to back them because of the neighbour status? Surely Germany is closer to England than Brazil. Or is this a case of do as I say rather than do as I do?
Bart, Scotland

Is it time for English fans to make peace with Germany?

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