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24 Hours in Munich BONUS: Bayern Munich 2014-15 Home Shirt AND Germany World Cup 2014 Home Shirt

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I have one night in Munich to live it up. What happens in Munich stays in Munich, like Vegas. I’m riding an emotional high as I arrive to spend the night for my layover between my flight from Izmir and my flight on to Boston, sipping a Smirnoff Ice outside the Flughafen branch of the Bayern Munich shop. I soon realize that the only similarities between Munich and Vegas exist on the small “strip” leading from the Hauptbanhof to my hotel. Strillerstrasse is lined with Turkish kebab shops, casinos, strips clubs, and . . . women in Niqabs. A group meanders past a “Girls Girls Girls” advertisement, the neon from the sign reflecting off of their modest black garb. In Munich, in this spot where Vegas and Mecca have come together, it makes me feel like—just maybe—this world will come together too before it tears itself apart.

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I’m thinking it’s like a bad joke as I head up the dark stairs of the Hotel Daheim to my third floor room, the floorboards creaking with each step. As I throw my bags onto the surprisingly clean bed I reason that it’s just for one night, just a place to park my things, and myself, and I head out to explore (but not before closing the window, which opens to a fire escape accessible to all the other rooms).

With the mix of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish voices around me on the streets it feels like Istanbul…or so I lull myself into thinking, before seeing the Atlantic City club advertising Table Dancing specials for tonight. I laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and head towards Marianplatz and Munich’s picturesque center.

On the way I find a four-story sporting goods store where I partake in the solemn act that all tourists upon visiting Munich must experience: purchasing a Bayern Munich football shirt. Last year’s design has been discounted to 39 Euros from 80; an amazing deal considering that this year’s shirt isn’t much to write home about and costs 85 Euro—insult to injury! I also add Germany’s 2014 World Cup shirt to my collection for 25 Euros. When asked which match I want printed on the shirt I immediately give a knee-jerk reaction: The final against Argentina. Then I wake up. That’s cliché. “Do you have the USA match?” I ask, remembering the game I watched in St. Petersburg, Russia, when Joachim Low had his team take it easy on his countryman Jurgen Klinsmann. We are, after all, living in an international world and life is international.

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Shirts in hand I head to Marianplatz, which, under construction, has lost some of its grandeur. I continue on to the river instead, past an amazingly attractive Mini Cooper Polizei cruiser. And who says the Germans don’t get on with the British? Oh…wait…Mini is owned by BMW.

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Yes, I’m thinking the world could slowly be melding into one homogenous entity…before the strangely beautiful yet wholly mechanical “DEE-DOO-DEE-DOO-DEE-DOO” siren of an ambulance cuts through Munich’s serenity and I, watching the view over the Isar with the siren’s soundtrack in my mind, feel as if I’ve stepped into a Lego town. No, the world still has its differences. Here, drinking a mug of Munich’s famous beer in public and watching the sunbathers catch the last rays of a summer day, I could only be in “Europe”. The Europe of American backpacker’s dreams, the Europe of month long summer vacations designed to break the monotony of Suburban America.

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The next day, aboard my homeward-bound Lufthansa flight, I’m reading the papers and am again convinced that world is not completely homogenized by way of globalization…yet. According to my free copy of USA Today—two steps above or below a tabloid, depending on your point of view—9 CEOs in America are paid 800 times more than their workers. The dark side of the story is telling: “the average CEO is paid 216 times more than workers now,” compared to the “20 times more [they were paid] on average in the 1950s, according to a 2013 analysis by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.” Roger Cohen’s piece in the International New York Times (the successor to the famous International Herald Tribune that defined my childhood) “Incurable American Excess”, also rang true for me:

“To return from Europe to the United States, as I did recently, is to be struck by the crumbling infrastructure, the paucity of public spaces, the conspicuous waste (of food and energy above all), the dirtiness of cities and the acuteness of their poverty. It is also to be overwhelmed by the volume and vital clamor of American life, the challenging interaction, the bracing intermingling of Americans of all stripes, the strident individualism. Europe is more organized, America more alive. Europe purrs; even its hardship seems somehow muted. America revs. The differences can feel violent.”

“What We Learned from German Prisons” by Nicholas Turner and Jeremy Travis taught me that “While the United States currently incarcerates 2.2 million people, Germany — whose population is one-fourth the size of ours [the United States] — locks up only about 63,500, which translates to an incarceration rate that is one-tenth of ours [the United States].” The ability to be able to compare the United States and Germany first-hand allowed me to uniquely view the points that these journalists were making. But make no mistake; it is our differences—in the United States and in Europe—that make us stronger. Globalization need not make all cultures the same, indeed such rampant homogenization is not the solution for a more utopian society. After all, Germany is not the United States and bad people—unfortunately—do exist, no matter how much we attempt to homogenize and sanitize our views of society.

We learned this once again on August 22, 2015 when a group of three American soldiers vacationing in Europe foiled an attempted terrorist attack on a train in France. My hats off to the three brave young men who took matters into their own hands…and an extra shout out to Alek Skarlatos, who appears in an FC Bayern Munchen shirt—the same shirt I found on my one day jaunt around Munich. Perhaps the more things change the more they stay the same. All we can do, as individuals curious about the world around us, is get out and see the differences before they’re gone. After all, you never know what homogenizing force—constructive or destructive—will come along next.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/world/europe/americans-recount-gunmans-attack-on-train-to-france.html

The Globalism of Politics and Sports From Istanbul to Germany

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Germany and Turkey are two countries that have an oddly intimate relationship despite their very different backgrounds. During World War One the ailing Ottoman Empire chose to side with the Central powers and the German Reich. In the 1960s the history of these two countries again merged when Gastarbeiter—foreign “guest workers”—migrated en masse to Germany in order to work low skilled jobs in the industrial sector and make up for the lack of labor following the division of Germany. Although these workers came from a variety of countries including Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yugoslavia the majority came from Turkey. To this day there are more than four million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, a topic so multi-faceted that it has to be left for another article.

This article is about another link between these two countries—that of football and ideology. Every country in the world, no matter how big or small, how rich or poor, undoubtedly shares various qualities: They all have political squabbles—some bigger than others, they all play football—some more successfully than others, and their citizens also follow the news and—as human beings—have their own views on right and wrong and the perceived injustices going on in the world around them. At a time that blood is being shed in the name of varying views of right and wrong from Missouri to Ukraine and on to the Levant it is refreshing to see humans come together; this weekend Bayern Munich’s fans showed that sentiment in the stands during a match against Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2014/12/06/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-turkce-destek-402402

The banner unfurled by Bayern Munich fans reads “Adaletsizlik yaparsan Çarşına, tüm Ultralar geçer karşına”—“If you do injustice to your Çarşı, all the Ultras will stand against you”. This refers to the upcoming December 16 trial against the members of Beşiktaş’s fan group Çarşı who are accused of attempting to bring down the government due to their role in the Gezi protests of June 2013. But this is not the first time that German football teams have supported Çarşı, it has become a recurring theme in recent months. Immediately after the announcement of the aforementioned legal case during a match between Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg on September 13, Dortmund fans unleashed a three level banner reading:

“Çarşı ultras, yolunuz için savaşın”

“Asla pes etmeyin!”

“Ultras için özgürlük, Türkiye de dahil!”

 

“Çarşı Ultras, fight for your path”

“Never give up!”

“Freedom for Ultras, including in Turkey!”

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.posta.com.tr/spor/HaberDetay/Carsi-ya-Almanya-dan-dev-destek-.htm?ArticleID=244857

 

On May 18 2014, during the German Cup Final, Bayern Munich fans unfurled two banners reading:

“Çarşı için adalet, Ultralar omuz omuza!”

“Her yer Taksim, her yer direniş”

 

“Justice for Çarşı, Ultras shoulder to shoulder!”

“Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance”

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Image Courtesy Of: http://spor.internethaber.com/spor/dunyadan-futbol/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-destek-192570.html#

Despite all the discussions surrounding Turkey and its identity (is it European or Asian, Western or Eastern) in football terms it seems that Turkey has its place squarely in Europe. These recent displays of support from Germany show that as the world globalizes local political and ideological struggles—those stemming from football fans defending a park, for instance—can be elevated into international events. Perhaps that is one reason that the Turkish government has pushed so fiercely for the Passolig Card system, keeping fans from the stadium and thereby silencing voices that clearly resonate far beyond the stands of Turkey’s stadiums.