Psychology of a win

Malli has become a dedicated fan of German football this year. He can name every player on the World Cup team. He knows their positions, their numbers, and which club teams they play for. He knows when teammates from the Bundesliga are meeting each other on the World Cup pitch on opposing sides. When we picked him up from the school summer fair last week we were a bit taken aback to find our Canadian-Sri-Lankan child’s face painted in bands of Schwartz-Rot-Gold. He cheered hard for Germany against Algeria, against France, and last night, against Brazil. And being in Berlin, we all wanted Germany to win – mostly because it would be a bummer to be surrounded by a bunch of sad fans.

But last night’s win over Brazil didn’t feel like a victory. Sure, we cheered at the first goal. We even cheered at the second. By the third goal we started to wonder what was wrong. “What’s going on? Is something the matter with the Brazilian team,” I asked? Before I could get the words out, Germany’s fourth and fifth goals were in the net.

Malli had stopped cheering. The firecrackers outside were much less plentiful since ardent fans hadn’t rationed their firecrackers to cover five (and then six, and then seven) German goals.

Throughout the second half of the game Malli kept whispering “please don’t score again, please don’t score again.” This from the boy who had been leaping about in a victory dance half an hour earlier. At the end of the game I carried sleeping Akka to bed and she woke up enough to ask who won.

“Germany won,” I said.

“What was the score?”

“Seven to one. Seven to one for Germany.”

“Oh,” she said sleepily. “I don’t like seven to one.”

I don’t like seven to one either. I did want Germany to win but not like that. I suppose they didn’t have the option to wrap it up after three goals and stop aiming for the net. But even the children could see it clearly: we wanted ‘our’ guys to beat ‘their’ guys but then we wanted the beating to stop. Watching a win is thrilling but watching a beating is horrifying.

So when we watch the final on Sunday the kids and I will be cheering for a very, very narrow German win.

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