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Sport on TV: Long history of being just a bit beastly.

"DON'T let's be beastly to the German when our victory is ultimately won" sang Noel Coward in the dying days of World War Two.

And we weren't, really.

Last night's ITV documentary England v Germany: The First 100 Years reminded us that being beastly to the Germans is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

Jack Charlton recalled rival fans mingling happily along Wembley Way on the day of the 1966 World Cup final.

"There wasn't one incident," he said.

Anti-German feeling has never been far below the surface, though.

In 1956, England beat West Germany 3-0 in Berlin's Olympic stadium.

After Johnny Haynes' third goal, the camera focused on a couple of disconsolate Teutonic faces in the crowd and the Movietone News commentator yelled: "Donner und blitzen! Zees Englanders have us out-schnitzled!"

Don't try that one this evening, Ron.

England had played in the same stadium on the eve of the outbreak of war, in 1938, with top-ranking Nazis such as Goebbels and Goering in the crowd.

Appeasement was in the air, and the British ambassador in Berlin had pressured the FA to make England's players give the Nazi salute.

Stanley Matthews said the players "were livid."

But player power hadn't been invented then.

The team meekly gave in. And we saw the shameful sight of our brave lads lined up, right arms raised stiffly in the air.

Presenter Des Lynam said the first representative England v Germany game took place at White Hart Lane in 1901 (so we're talking about the first 99 years then). England won 12-0. Yes, 12-0.

The next meeting was that famous unofficial fixture on Christmas Day, 1914, in a muddy patch of No Man's Land. After World War Two, movies and comic strips reinforced stereotypical images of the arrogant, untrustworthy and cowardly Hun, invariably coming off second best to the heroic Tommies.

Except on the football field.

In Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, Terry returned from army duty in Germany, and told Bob that his marriage to a German girl had broken down due to "irreconcilable differences".

Bob asked what happened. Terry: "What happened? On June 14th 1970? I would have thought that date was indelibly printed on every true Englishman's mind. England 2 West Germany 3. That's what happened!"

We saw Harry Enfield's inspired comic creation Jurgen the German Tourist, not only apologising for Germany's conduct in the war, but also for his namesake Jurgen Klinsmann: "How dare he come to your country, the country that is inventing football, and humiliate you with his flashes of genius and lethal finishes?"

Klinsmann himself offered a fascinating insight into Germany's Never Say Die approach to football.

"It has to do, maybe, with German history, with the way that we had to build up twice our country."

Keegan then popped up to say he didn't feel the pressure of history on him.

"I actually think some manager, somewhere, is going to benefit from the fact that it's about time that history is there to be written again," he said. "And that, maybe, this could be the start of a 30-year domination the other way."

He paused, then added: "That's what I'd like to think..."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Catchpole, Charlie
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 17, 2000
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