Tim Tan Huynh

The Berlin Wall

10 Nov 2014 — The most imposing and iconic Cold War structure fell 25 years ago yesterday. For people who are old enough to remember, it serves as a reminder of how different the world had been compared to now.

I was in elementary school at the time, still learning to read, so I couldn’t appreciate the fall of the Berlin Wall. I vaguely remember seeing the news coverage; the most I remember about the time period is Soviets being the bad guys in movies. To me, this event is less about Berliners being re-united with their loved ones, however important for them, and more about the central flash point of the Cold War being softened.

Will we ever see another rivalry between two superpowers? I can’t imagine the US ever collapsing like the Soviet Union, but I don’t expect China, despite its population and economy, to ever seriously rival America. Germany probably won’t be a superpower either, but since its (re)unification in 1990, the country has become influential on the global stage again. Now, threats come in the form of sectarian militants, not belligerent nations.

People older than me have better stories, but I do think it’s fitting that Germany has won the recent World Cup. This title is the first for modern Germany, because the previous three technically belong to West Germany, including the one just before the country’s dissolution. Winning the World Cup is cause for celebration in any country, but in Germany, this 25th anniversary has arguably been a bigger deal.

I was surprised to learn that seven of the 23 players on the World Cup roster were from modern-day Germany. I honestly didn’t expect the number to be that high. Certainly, the core players were born in West Germany; some were born in East Germany or Poland. Of the 11 starters in the final, only Christoph Kramer was born after the two German Republics merged, but Mario Goetze, the sub who scored the lone goal, was also born in Germany.

Team captain Philipp Lahm and record goal-scorer Miroslav Klose, who were respectively born in 1983 and 1978, have since retired from the national team. For the next World Cup, the German roster might have more players from Kramer and Goetze’s generation than Lahm and Klose’s. This transition is noteworthy to me because I see Die Mannschaft as the face of Germany and at least a partial reflection of its population makeup.

Little of the Berlin Wall remains, though evidence of the city’s division can be seen from space. Several years from now, most (if not all) of the other players from my generation will have retired from the German national team; men like us who are barely old enough to remember the Berlin Wall will be well past our physical prime by then. The thought is sobering.

Some day, the bios of German soccer heroes will no longer have “East Germany” or “West Germany” as their places of birth, but it’s not like Germany will forget about the division of their capital and country.