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Chancellor Leaves Cruyff Crush Behind to Follow Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel fancied Johan Cruyff more than Juergen Sparwasser in her youth but now supports her own country at Euro 2008.

Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff holds his lifetime acheivement award during the Laureus World Sports Awards in Barcelona, Spain, Monday May 22, 2006.

Chancellor Merkel's youthful crush on Cruyff has been replaced by a passion for Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel fancied Johan Cruyff more than Juergen Sparwasser in her youth but now supports her own country at Euro 2008.

"Cruyff really impressed me. I think I wasn't the only one in Europe," she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) daily in an interview published on Saturday, the opening day of the tournament.

The Dutch legend Cruyff stood out at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany which Merkel watched from her then home country East Germany. The East famously beat the later champions from the West 1-0 from Sparwasser's goal in the group stage, but Merkel was unimpressed due to the political implications.

"I wasn't happy about it because I knew what they (the East's Communist government) would make out of it," she said.

More than 30 years on, and as chancellor of the unified Germany, Merkel has her priorities right and is an ardent Germany fan who likes to shows her emotions on the stands -- as seen ever since the 2006 World Cup which her country hosted.

"I am simply into the game like any one else. It appears as if not many people knew that I am interested in football. And no one asked me about it in my political life until 2006," she told the SZ.

Merkel attended last weekend's 2-1 win over Serbia in the final tune-up match for Euro. She will be in Vienna on June 16 to watch Germany's Euro group match with Austria, and would not mind being back there for the final on June 29.

"I will watch the game (on June 16) with (Austrian) chancellor (Alfred) Gusenbauer. And I have told our team I would like to see them again at Euro," she said.

Merkel said she expects the team around coach Joachim Loew and captain Michael Ballack (whom she likes because he doesn't hide his eastern German Saxon accent) to do well at the event in Austria and Switzerland.

"I trust Joachim Loew that he sends a well-prepared team into the tournament," said Merkel.

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