"The Tears of a German Goalkeeper"

A moment ago he was admired by men and despised by women. Now he's loved by women and repudiated by men. The German goalie Oliver Kahn committed a horrendous mistake in the World Championship final against Brazil in 2002. He released a return right in front of the goal. He should have grabbed the ball and safely scooped it into what goalies call 'the cradle'. Or, if he wasn't sure he could do that, he should have deflected it to one side or the other so that no striker could drive in an easy return.

Thanks to his mistake, Oliver Kahn has become a phenomenon of almost mythological proportions. At the very least, the aftermath says a lot about the relations between men and women in Germany. Before his blunder, Oliver Kahn was the hero above all others on the German team. Even before the final he had been hailed as the Championship's best goalie. That proved to be premature. No other goalie committed such a huge error in a crucial moment.

Everyone who knows anything about the art of protecting a goal has noticed that Oliver Kahn is weak in the left corner. He throws himself over there reluctantly and slowly, in a labored movement that no training camp has been able to get rid of over the years. He is right-handed, and he is so proscribed by that in the way he moves his body that he has trouble reacting effectively in his left corner.

A consummate goalie is more of a Da Vinci, and has control over both halves of his brain and both sides of his body. Kahn has also always had trouble hanging onto the ball. He is not a technical goalie. But what he lacks in ball control and timing, or hand and eye coordination, he more than compensates for with his courage. He is fantastic in the air on corners and crosses, and unhesitating when he rushes out and throws himself in front of an attacker in the act of shooting.

And it is precisely that courage that has won the admiration of those football fans who prefer the reckless fighter to the spectacular artist ' the goalie who leaps like a panther against the crossbar and makes miraculous saves.
For years, Oliver Kahn had been a mythological figure in Germany, the idol of the tough guys, a real man?s man. In that Championship he was the star of the German team, the man who personified the German fighting spirit. You could see it in his Wildman physiognomy, his man's man unmanageable hair that looked as if he'd just got out of bed and as if any stroke of a comb would be a concession to feminine coquetry, those protruding ears, those little aggressive eyes under a forehead that looked as though it could crush a motorcycle helmet ' and then there was his motor mouth going off all the time.

Superman going into the final, then the whipping boy, the goat! A pathetic fumbler. The really tough guys, the men's men who had doted on him, the beer guzzlers who had worshipped him and in their secret fantasies hoped that just once in their lives they could be that courageous, the macho wimps with their tattoos and swastikas or red stars or whatever they were decorating themselves with for the moment ' they turned their backs on Oliver Kahn.

His blunder in the Championship final would have been a big enough catastrophe, because that's how grim stupid people can be. But things got even worse.

In a TV interview after the final, Oliver Kahn truly proved that he was a real man, one who could admit a mistake without making excuses. He asked the German people to forgive him for his blunder, and he shed tears in front of the TV audience.
Those tears made the German beer guzzlers turn against him even more than they had after his mistake. But as most welcome and emphatic compensation, he became the hero of German women!

The German women's magazine Lisa had spent big money to make a nationwide statistical study following Oliver Kahn's tears on TV. They published their results in a summer issue 2003.
It turns out that Oliver Kahn now represents the ideal man for German women: 'Hard on the outside, gentle on the inside.' Tough, but oh so gentle. 48.1% of German women between 20 and 45 named Oliver Kahn the very image of what a man should be. According to the statistics, younger women were even more insistent that Kahn's tears on TV were revolutionary. To 54.2% of women between 20 and 29, Kahn was suddenly the ideal man. What's more, the costly and obviously ambitious survey showed that over 60% of women in the former East Germany perceived Oliver Kahn as a German dream man.

Hard on the outside, gentle on the inside. We find out that half of all German women deeply yearn for something other than a hard skull. That a few tears of remorse on TV can turn Oliver Kahn into the ideal German man after a terrible blunder that he had every reason to be ashamed of ? now there is really something to think about.

(Svenska Dagbladet, 2002)