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Vorpsrung Durch Football

The beautiful game has had a huge impact on Germany’s international reputation.

Is German tourism about to take another giant leap forward? Very likely, and it is all down to a game invented by the British, which involves 22 men chasing an inflatable piece of leather around a field.

Germany’s last footballing success, the hosting of the 2006 World Cup, was a big turning point in the nation’s image and self-confidence. Previously, the country had been thought to be too reserved and regimented to make a good host, but instead the impression coming back both from fans and TV screens was of a hospitable place, comfortable in its own skin.

That World Cup produced a surge in the economy of 1.7 percent (cruelly, the Brazilians were the biggest-spending visitors, and look what Germany did in return!). In the course of just six months, Germany went from 5th to 1st in the top ten countries for tourism and culture, and its tourism image moved from 19th to 13th in the world rankings. Before that, younger Germans would often say that they were European first, and German second; afterwards, they were proud to be German first, European second.

In the years since, the country has shown considerable economic leadership in Europe, as the only nation which sailed through the recession unharmed. But that doesn’t necessarily win it any friends.

Football does, however. And it couldn’t have worked out better. If this year’s semi-final, against Brazil, had been the final, then the Germans could have been cast as the villains, humiliating the host nation; in the second half of that match it was as if someone had died. But beating the Argentinians in the final restored the local support, and doing it with a flash of brilliance after a performance of considerable resilience couldn’t have been better scripted.

In general, German tourism has been increasing steadily over the last decade, by a small percentage every year. I daresay that this year will outshine those previous advances. Who says that football is only a game?

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