foot, world, cup, ball
map © Louise Van Swaaij & Jean Klare, ‘The Atlas of Experience‘, London 2000
the day after Brazil lost at such gigantic scale against Germany in the world cup i passed a group of colleagues who were discussing the game. i was strangely aware that they mentioned my name without talking to me directly. fair enough, they knew by now that i was not in the least interested in watching testosterone-buzzing men running after a round ball made up of hexagonal patches of leather under the eyes of half the world.
yet, i felt alienated and uneasy by that experience: very self-conscious of being from the very country that was responsible for what was an almost shameless victory which ousted the world cup host – and at the same time so disconnected from football as a sport and Germany as the country i happened to be born in.
whenever people reacted surprised that i wasn’t supporting Germany in the world cup i felt a tinge of guilt: as if i wasn’t fulfilling what could be rightly expected from me as a German-born citizen. and it’s still nagging me, this question of what it means to be German, or own any other national identity: is it something that some people can feel and others not, the way some people can feel earth radiation or the weather and others not? or is it something we’re all born with but lose gradually if we don’t look after it well e.g. by travelling too many times or living too far away from our so-called ‘home’-countries?
not feeling particularly ‘German’ is one thing – but not knowing where i have a home is an altogether different matter. i felt a similar sense of alienation and unease after the recent EU elections prompted by the ever louder voices in the UK about leaving the EU: what felt like an open and accepting (i wouldn’t go as far as welcoming) country some 10 years ago slowly turns into a place i’m beginning to feel unwelcome. it’s all very silently and subtle and maybe not all that radical as i make it in my head. just like that tall metal hoarding that has re-appeared right through Victoria Park for the festival season where the centre of the park is closed off for local residents and neighbours, dog-walkers, joggers, family picnic members or outdoor yoga enthusiasts – essentially non-ticket-holders – by a green wall the colour of the surrounding canopy.
feeling home-less. where does it start? and how?
i’m thinking of a line in one of my favourite poems by Marie Luise Kaschnitz “Dass du an vielen Orten zuhause warst, aber ein Heimatrecht hast an keinem” – “that you’ve been at home in many places but don’t have the right of residence in any”. i have to check my ticket.