Canaries relatives could have fought each other in war - so English and German stars united in remembrance was apt
PUBLISHED: 20:27 15 November 2018
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The sight of Norwich City footballers of different nationalities linking arms before last Saturday's match against Millwall, was the perfect symbol of remembrance, says Nick Conrad
It’s terrifically moving standing among thousands of people all embraced in total silence. Last Saturday as the sun sank behind the dark clouds, the Millwall and Norwich players stood shoulder to shoulder around the centre circle. On the referee’s whistle a respectful hush set in around the ground. The player’s heads dipped in quiet reflection. As I glanced at the names emblazoned across the vibrant yellow of our home kit, I was instantly struck with a huge sense of positivity. Here, literally arm in arm, stood Germany and Britain – united.
In hellish muddied trenches one hundred years ago, men stopped killing each other for a brief moment to kick a ball about. A fleeting moment of sanity in the orgy of violence that is war. The story of that nocturnal Noel match became a symbol of reconciliation and hope. On Saturday Norwich fielded five players who hail from Germany or countries aligned to the Third Reich. It is totally plausible that relatives of our excellent squad may well have fought against the allies. Yet here we all stood,together.
After the game, and boy what a game, the player’s names were passionately chanted. Our version of Blur’s mega hit Park Life resonated around the ground. The German contingent in the Canaries has been warmly welcomed into the city. Football grounds, often cast as a hotbed for hostility, racism and division loudly hailed our Germanic King. And by current form, may Mr Farke long reign over us.
This mutual warmth afforded to our German cousins is not new. My grandmother was instrumental in starting and maintaining school exchange programmes between the two countries following the Second World War. I was delighted on a recent trip to Norwich High School for Girls to learn that their union with Heilbronn is alive and well. My grandmother believed we had a duty to stand together with Europe to ensure that conflict would never ravage our communities again
Sadly, this positive sentiment appears at odds with the common view of Europe’s biggest super power. Some believe that the continent is in the grip of Germanophobia. An enraged Athenian told me how Germany should never be trusted. In Cyprus, Spain and Portugal, protesters have recently waved banners emblazoned with swastikas. Ms Merkel’s picture has been defaced with a Hitler style moustache. Many are furious with the austerity imposed by a new “Reich”.
In Paris, resentment simmers. In other parts of France, it positively boils. Some argue it is France’s deep-rooted resentment at their neighbour’s ability to rise from the ashes and once again dominate the continent? If true, such division fills me with sadness.
I take great heart in the way Norfolk has positively embraced the influx of foreign players in Norfolk. Anything that promotes harmony and togetherness is a huge plus in my book. As children we all learned German and visited the country regularly, as an adult my deep appreciation of the country continues.
We stand together in our condemnation of conflict and believe in the promotion of unity. Football has its challenges, but a great virtue of the beautiful game is how meaningless nationality is when fans take players and managers into their hearts. A battle where all sides can be victors.