Delightful Thai Wife in Europe – Nahlee Fights the Euro 2008 Soccer Final
"You are no fun when we watch football! Really, no fun!"
Says Nahlee, my Thai wife. She says I am "no fun" partner to follow the Euro 2008 soccer tournament. I deeply annoy her.
"Yes", she moans, "you don't really support the German team, do you?"
That's my sin.
Well before kick-off, we arrive at a German beer garden to see the Euro 2008 soccer final, Germany against Spain. On this warm summer night, we'll watch the match under chestnut trees with two hundred other Germans. We order the local favorites for people with a car, redcurrant juice and "Spezi", a Coke Fanta mix.
Usually we don't care for spectator sports. But we've already seen the German quarter and semi finals plus one other knock out match. Quite surprisingly for me, we discovered our very contradictory expectations: Nahlee, my Thai wife, only wants to see the German team, and she wants to see the Germans winning. On the other hand I, Nahlee's German husband, like to see fast quality football from whatever team, and I want to see the better team winning.
So all would be fine if Germany did play good football: Nahlee could see Germany, and I could see quality. But Germany doesn't play much quality football (even though they reached the final). Nahlee's and my wishes are incompatible. In the previous matches we'd seen the German team living up to their old reputation: play mediocre and win anyway. Good for Thai Nahlee, boring for German Hans.
Still some time before we'll hear the national anthems. Nahlee puts her school books onto the table and takes out a pen. Just this week, the teacher in her German language class introduced genitive case and conjunctive II – no immediate favorites with the Thai students. Lots of homework. At school, Nahlee also discusses football with her female teacher, who watches all matches and must be more patriotic than I.
Other guys from our long beer garden bank look over at Nahlee's books. From our previous visits I know that all males like to inquire about the exotic bronze lady's whereabouts and offer help with tricky German grammar. I bow over her note book and say, "'wissen' is an irregular verb, darling".
Finally, the German team appears on the screen, moving lips to the sound of the German national anthem. A few guests in the Beergarden stand up for the anthem.
"Stay sat", I admonish Nahlee, "we're not in a Bangkok cinema." She obeys.
Ten minutes of German power play. Nahlee points out how well they perform.
22 minutes of German players trying to get out of evidence. Nahlee doesn't comment.
33rd minute. A weedy blond dyed Spaniard runs faster than everybody else and deservedly scores 0-1 for Spain. Nahlee is depressed. To her, Germany should lead just because it's Germany.
I order French fries (nothing else available). I know that Nahlee can't stand my defeatism, but I have to teach her that Thai style chauvinism is obsolete here.
"All German newspapers wrote that Spain is objectively better", I lecture.
She doesn't like my words and what's more, she fears our neighbors on the beer garden bank might get upset. My sentence sounds like imprudent public political ranting to her.
"This here is a free country", I inform, "it's not Southeast Asia!"
More cloudy face.
Germany 0-1 Spain.
This Euro 2008 really brought new insights for Nahlee and me alike. Nahlee, on her side, quickly learnt technical terms like "team", "penalty", "corner", "keeper" or "header". And I quickly learnt how patriotic my gal can be – patriotic for Germany. At the world cup 2006, when she was new to Germany, she didn't want to see one match.
Half-time break. The TV experts discuss the match.
"These self-declared journalists are such girls", I explain to Nahlee, "look, they wear business suits, but they say 'we have to try harder' or 'unfortunately Philipp Lahm was too slow to stop him'. Why are they siding with one team? They should analyse, but not show affection for one team. They should say 'the Germans will have to try harder' or 'Philipp Lahm was too weak and too slow to stop him'. They talk like fans of a pop star."
German journalists may not side with German soccerers? Nahlee fumes again at my ideas. I don't know about media ethics in Thailand. But maybe Nahlee expects the commentators to wear the parrot like fan dress in national black-red-yellow that so many people in the beer garden put on.
On a side note, she isn't patriotic enough to join the black-red-yellow German fan brigades. A customer had given me baseball caps and make-up in the German national colors, but Nahlee had no interest in wearing that. With a smile, she handed the fan items to kids in our street.
The Spaniards continue to dominate this match.
60th minute. Still 0-1 for Spain.
"It should be 0-5 for Spain now", I comment after a string of scoring chances for the Iberians. I get another angry look from my almond eyed spouse. For Nahlee, obviously, a healthy dose of nationalism, patriotism and chauvinism is just as natural as religiosity, family ties and tons of chili in every dish. Nothing to be ashamed of. Patriotism is natural for her – and natural for me, she seems to assume. She can't understand my critical comments. Am I a Taliban?
So now Nahlee embraces German soccer. I hadn't seen her as a patriotic person so far. For instance, unlike other Thais, she talks quite critically and distanced about her own country. And did she ever watch *Thai* sports?
"Did you ever watch *Thai* sports in Thailand", I ask her?
"No, Hans, I can't. They always lose, and that's too bad for my heart. I don't want to see that."
So maybe she isn't a *Germany* fan. Maybe she just wants to side with a *winner*?
"Germany plays so mediocre", I tell her, while we watch the helpless Central European team getting overrun one more time. "Why should they win? If you want to be with a winner, simply support the Spanish."
Nahlee: "I want Germany to win of course! Germany's in my heart already! Don't you know that?!"
Hans: "Wow, say that at the exam for your naturalization. The officials will love it."
Nahlee: ((Angry look. Implies that my own local citizenship should be revoked for continuous nasty remarks about heroic German football in this most critical of moments. Further implies that she might denounce me at the department of homeland defence, if we had such a thing.))
75th minute. Still 0-1 for Spain. The French fries finally arrive. (I suspect another guest closer to the kitchen has intercepted an earlier French fries delivery that should have reached Nahlee and me.)
Only a few minutes left to catch up. The Germans are down, but the tireless Spanish charge ahead. Nahlee watches breathlessly, now and then fingering for the undercooked wobbly fries which came without fork or tissue. She'd never accept or eat this under normal conditions.
Our second neighbor to the right, a German bloke, is rather drunk by now. He tells everybody how bad Germany plays. Nahlee doesn't like to hear that. He yaks on that he has a bet running in his office, Spain would win. He laughs madly, because now he will likely win his bet. Nahlee herself could never bet against her own country/ies.
85th minute. Still 0-1 for Spain. They had enough chances for 0-10.
On the quarter and semi finals, around the 85th minute Germany had been leading with one goal ahead of Portugal resp Turkey. At that point I had commented to Nahlee: "I hope the others will score a goal and equalize in these last five minutes. I'd love to see the extra time and a penalty shoot-out – so exciting!"
"You are no fun when we watch football", Nahlee had retorted indignantly, "you don't really support the German team!"
This time I don't desire the extra time and the shoot-out. I usually love to see the drama, but not today:
- If Spain wins, the streets will be much more quiet than after a German victory. After a Spanish triumph, no drunken cheering German car parades will threaten our drive home. So the Spanish should win.
- It's cloudy and windy now, a thunderstorm seems imminent. Better leave the beer garden soon. So the Spanish should win soon.
I don't communicate my thoughts to Nahlee.
90th minute. Germany 0-1 Spain. Three minutes additional time!
93rd minute. Final whistle. Germany 0-1 Spain.
Germany is NOT European soccer champion, Nahlee is broken-hearted. Can't she realize how the Spanish victory beautifully makes sense – looking at this match and looking at the whole tournament? As we walk out with the crowd, we hear the TV experts comment "Spain was better". Can that be true, unpatriotic talk from "national TV", Nahlee thinks?
In the car, the first rain drops plop onto the windscreen.
At home, I show her German online news sites. The headline is the same everywhere: "Spain wins deservedly". And that from German sites. I tell her that the Euro tournament actually is more demanding than a world cup, due to its higher density of capable teams; so being Euro vice champion is no real shame. Nahlee thinks and resigns: "Yes, number two in Europe is not *too* bad." Is she finally at peace?
Outside, rain thunders down hard.
Nahlee comes to bed and says: "Oh my god, I just remembered how *much* the German players worked and tried, and now they are only second best. They must be so unhappy."
"They are not unhappy", I murmur and cuddle closer. Nahlee cuddles closer too.
I continue: "They are not unhappy. How can they be unhappy? Some of them earn over five million Euros per year. "
It's after midnight now. Nahlee starts to think and finally shows that, against patriotic upsurge and sleepiness, she is still the business lady I grew to love. She gives also evidence that she learnt something very crucial about doing business here in Germany – another plus for her upcoming naturalization exams.
Nahlee: "Five millions per year? Is that gross or net?"
I always laugh at the way you see vehicles in Thailand, often pick up trucks, that have the stickers of two English football teams, invariably Manchester United and Liverpool. No Englishman would ever support these two teams yet in Thailand, it seems that many like to support the winner. And like Nahlee, cheering for the opposition because of the attractive way the play the game is unheard of!