x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cup final rivalries brought home

“We’re still not decided where to watch it but I’d prefer to watch it separately,” said German expatriate Katya Perez, whose husband is from Argentina.

Sebastian and Karin Haase in their German and Argentinian football shirts at their home on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Mrs Haase said although her husband said he would be happy if Argentina won, he was “90 per cent for Germany and 10 pr cent for Argentina”. Antonie Robertson / The National
Sebastian and Karin Haase in their German and Argentinian football shirts at their home on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Mrs Haase said although her husband said he would be happy if Argentina won, he was “90 per cent for Germany and 10 pr cent for Argentina”. Antonie Robertson / The National

ABU DHABI // Those looking for fireworks when Germany meet Argentina in Sunday night’s World Cup final may not need to travel all the way to Brazil.

Locally, loyalties and even marriages will be tested when the teams take to the pitch to decide the 2014 champion.

“I support Germany first and foremost,” said Katya Perez, a German living in Abu Dhabi with her Argentine husband.

The couple alternated when watching earlier matches – one with German friends, the next with friends from Argentina. But they may have to sit in different venues tonight.

“I’d prefer to watch it separately,” said Mrs Perez. “I realised that the Argentinians drove me mad because they’re so nervous, excited and shouting, so I’d prefer to watch it in a more relaxed way, without them and my husband.”

Their daughter has chosen to back Argentina but their son is the family diplomat.

“My seven-year-old daughter would like Argentina to win but my son has both jerseys,” said Pablo Perez.

Mrs Perez said watching the match with her German friends would be a better option.

“My husband was so nervous with his friends that I couldn’t stand it,” she said. “Us Germans are pretty calm and more relaxed.

“We are passionate in our own German way. I think there’s a big chance Germany will win.”

Mr Perez said he has strong connections with Germany, but he would have to support the South American contender.

“Although I was born and raised in Argentina for 24 years, I work for Siemens and my wife is German, so my relationship with Germany is not only professional but also personal.”

He said he was surprised Argentina had made it this far.

“We didn’t expect this final at all. It’s like the dream final for us because both teams are there.”

Sebastian and Karin Haase are not football fanatics but the final may bring up some tension.

“I always support Argentina first and Germany second,” said Mrs Haase, who was born and raised in Argentina by a German mother.

“Although my husband says sometimes he would also be happy if Argentina wins, I know he’s 90 per cent for Germany and 10 per cent for Argentina.”

After having watched the last World Cup in 2010 in Germany, she said there could well be tension. “There was already some tension then, especially when the Germans commit a foul. At that moment the tension increases,” she said.

“But it will depend on how the match ends. There could be an hour of tension.”

Mrs Haase also works for a German company in the UAE.

“Some German colleagues of his might come here but I will stand my ground,” she said. “We have to represent the Argentinians here.”

Although German by origin, Mr Haase also grew up in Argentina.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for both teams,” he said. “Argentina-Germany is not a good match because I identify with both.

“I’d be proud of Germany if they win but I know all the songs the Argentinians sing during the game, so it gives me goosebumps. Then again, if a goal is scored against Germany I find it hard to celebrate, so it’s like a constant battle.”

He said he would not feel as badly as his wife if Argentina did not play well.

“If I get a short response it means I’m supporting the other team too much, and that’s not something she wants to hear so I have to watch what I say,” he said.

“If Germany wins, it will really put a strain on Argentina-German relations because of the past, so if we take it away from them, I think this will really hurt.”

Azul Molina, an Argentinian who lived in Berlin for six years, said she will watch the match with no Germans around. “I have a German friend but it’s very difficult to talk football with him,” said the Abu Dhabi resident. “It’s very sentimental so it’s best to keep both supporting teams separate. All my German friends have been constantly messaging me that they’re going to win but it’s best to just ignore them for now until the end.”

Alex Pomilio, an Argentinian who lived in Germany for 10 years but who now lives in Abu Dhabi, said he expected such a final because he trusted his team would make it. “My best friend is German but when I watch football, I am 100 per cent from Argentina,” he said. “I’m convinced Argentina will win.”

cmalek@thenational.ae