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A World Cup Ripple Effect?

As the German soccer team dribbles its way to the World Cup finals, some say bringing home the Cup would do more than make fans happy, it could have a positive effect on the country‘s economy and politics.

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A World Cup victory might just boost Schröder's chances of staying in office.

If German captain Oliver Kahn and his teammates do raise the 18-carat gold Cup above their heads this Sunday, overall effects could go beyond merely filling the streets with flag-waving crowds.

Financial experts believe that winning the title may provide a boost for Germany’s stalled economy, currently suffering in part from weak consumer spending. Some political strategists also expect a victory to heighten confidence in the current government.

"The result would be a positive boost in public opinion and consumer behavior," Dieter Hundt, president of the German Employers Association, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Important Models

Why is the national team so important? Hundt says the nation's all-star line-up provides important identification figures. This is especially significant at times when most national league teams recruit most of their players from abroad. Hundt points to the 1950s, when most of the team-members of first-league VFB Stuttgart actually came from the city's vicinity. Today, that’s no longer the case.

Since national teams that participate in the World Cup rely solely on native players, they could set a positive example for German industry in encouraging them to invest more in drafting new talent at home, says Hundt.

According to recently released figures, German industry is hiring more and more of its top-managers from foreign countries.

Will History Repeat Itself?

Fußball Legende Fritz Walter

German soccer legend Fritz Walter pictured in Berne, Switzerland June 23, 1995. Walter was the teamcaptain of the German national soccer team winning the worldchampionship in 1954. Walter died at the age of 81 Monday June 17, 2002 in his house in Enkenbach-Alsenborn near Kaiserslautern, Germany. (AP PHOTO/Michel Euler)

Hundt, once a goalkeeper for a Swiss major league team, says he bases his opinions on historical precedents, since a World Cup victory has proven a potent stimulant to the German economy before. When German soccer-legend Fritz Walter and his team took home the World Cup in 1954 (photo), a wave of enthusiasm took hold of a nation still struggling to rebuild from the ruins of World War II.

Winning the World Cup in 2002 could raise self-esteem and motivate Germans to excel in areas other than soccer, Hundt said. Such motivation is sorely needed, he said, especially in the fields of education and economy.

Other nations are also rooting for the German team as well.

Dutch financial experts say a German win would cheer up the country’s shoppers, who have been staying away from stores in droves. A rejuvenated German economy would help Europe as a whole, they say.

They add that a victory would increase sales of German products worldwide. "If the Germans win the Cup with their simple and efficient game, foreign interest in German products would also rise," said an official with ABM/AMRO, a Dutch bank.

Never Change a Winning Team

A German triumph could also make itself felt in politics and with national elections just around the corner, political analysts are keeping a close eye on events on the soccer-field.

Rudi Völler mit Papkameraden

German national soccer team chief Rudi Voeller stands beside figures for training during German soccer team training in Seogwipo, South Korea, on Wednesday, June 12, 2002. The German national soccer team won their last Group E, 2002 World Cup soccer match against Cameroon in Shizuoka 2-0 on Tuesday, June 11, 2002. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)

Since it's not usual for national teams to fire their coaches after losing the tournament, a German victory could not only save coach Rudi Völler's (photo) job, but could keep ruling chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from being benched after September’s parliamentary elections.

"We are in fact thinking in that direction," a speaker for the SPD-party said. "But that’s more based more on dinner table psychology than actual findings." Still, the general mood in society would improve, the source said, since voters would feel more content with the current situation.

Scientific Support

Dinner table talk or not, there are again precedents to this line of thinking. A study conducted during the 1998 parliamentary election, when the German team was sent home in the quarter-finals and weeks later chancellor Helmut Kohl was replaced by challenger Gerhard Schroeder, found a connection between the World Cup and voter behavior.

The study, led by German media analysts Reimar Zeh and Lutz Hagen, evaluated

the effects of television news on popular attitudes towards candidates. Zeh and Hagen concluded that non-political issues like sports can have a decisive impact on voters‘ decisions.

"We found that something like the ‚general mood‘ actually exists and that top-events like a soccer world championship have an influence on it," Hagen told DW-WORLD.

Hagen and his colleague observed what they call a "halo-effect," where pleasant events from one walk of life "radiate" their emotional energy into others, even if they be as seemingly far apart as soccer and politics.

A German World Cup win would favor the incumbent Gerhard Schröder, who is likely praying hard for a victory these days, since poll numbers just out show his SPD party trailing the opposition.

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