On Tuesday, England take on Germany in the first knock-out round of the European football championships.
You might think that I, as a German, would already be booking my ticket for the quarter-final.
After all, even your very own striker-turned-commentator Gary Lineker once said: ‘Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball around for 90 minutes, and then the Germans always win.’
But, as every German knows, our current team are a mere shadow of the great champions of the past. In fact, the one aspect of the upcoming contest that gives me hope is that it is a clash that carries more baggage than a Hollywood celebrity at LA airport.
And I am sure that England’s supporters will make us sausage-eaters only too aware of it, with their customary renditions of ‘Two world wars and one world cup, England, England.’
Don’t mention the war? Fat chance!
: COUNT ALEXANDER VON SCHOENBURG: On Tuesday, England take on Germany in the first knock-out round of the European football championships. You might think that I, as a German, would already be booking my ticket for the quarter-final. Pictured: World Cup Final, 1966
As a student in England, I vividly recall watching that episode of Fawlty Towers in which Basil, after warning his Spanish waiter Manuel on no account to mention the war in the hearing of a group of German guests, ends up goose-stepping around the hotel dining-room.
As this is an age in which everyone seems to enjoy getting offended all the time, I should point out that I never understood this episode to be an attack on Germans, but a brilliant satire on the British obsession with its twin victories in the first half of the 20th century.
You Brits just can’t put it out of your minds.
Take Euro 96. Two days before us krauts were due to take on England in the semi-finals a British tabloid newspaper ran a front page with the headline, ‘ACHTUNG! SURRENDER! For you Fritz, ze Euro 96 Championship is over’.
Unfortunately for you guys, we reversed the 1945 result by winning on penalties, thus implanting in every England player a deep-seated psychosis about taking spot kicks in international competitions that persists to this day.
And nowhere is this more present than in the noggin of your manager Gareth Southgate. Yes, the very man who missed his penalty, gifting us the match and allowing us to march on to victory in the final.
Many Britons like to think that the passion aroused by every footballing confrontation highlights not only historic strife but also vast differences between the two nations.
Britain is supposed to love freedom, Germany discipline. ‘Where would we be if we had too many rules?’ asks the comic Pub Landlord played by Al Murray. ‘Germany,’ he answers.
Pictured: World cup semi-final, 1990, Turin, Italy England 1 v West, Germany 1. England's Chris Waddle is consoled by West German captain Lothar Matthaeus after his miss in the penalty shoot-out. ALEXANDER VON SCHOENBURG: As every German knows, our current team are a mere shadow of the great champions of the past
Germans apparently value diligence more than Britons, which is why we are first to the sun loungers at holiday resorts.
In Britain a sense of humour is a prime virtue, unlike — allegedly — in Germany.
As the old joke goes, ‘In Heaven the Englishman is responsible for the jokes, the Italian for food and the German for order. In Hell, the Englishman is in charge of the food, the Italian order and the German the jokes.’
That national trait of my homeland could be said to be embodied in our long-serving, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has elevated dullness into a principle of governance.
Gareth Southgate holds his head after missing his penalty during England's defeat by Germany after a penalty shootout in the 1996 European Football Championships at Wembley Stadium
Yesterday, she gave her farewell speech to the Bundestag and it was a monochrome performance of wilful, almost spectacular tedium. The contrast with your Prime Minister Boris Johnson could hardly be greater. It is all but impossible to imagine a figure like Boris ever rising to the top in German