Chancellor Merkel visits German football squad | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 07.06.2012
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Chancellor Merkel visits German football squad

The German chancellor has dined with the country's foremost football stars, shortly before the tournament begins this Saturday. However Merkel, a keen fan, might not be at Germany's group phase games in Ukraine.

Angela Merkel dropped in on the national football squad on Wednesday at their Euro 2012 training camp near Gdansk on the border between Poland and Germany. Her 90-minute visit to the luxury Dwor Oliwski hotel came days ahead of the team's opening match against Portugal in Lviv on Saturday.

It's unclear whether Merkel will attend Germany's three group stage matches in Ukraine, owing to the treatment of jailed opposition figurehead Yulia Tymoshenko. The German chancellor had referred to the situation as "a cause for concern" in the past without taking a clear stance on the matter.

Watch video 01:29

A very high-profile fan comes to dinner

The German football association, the DFB, announced her arrival on Twitter, simply saying "the chancellor is here!"

In a DFB press release, Merkel was quoted as saying that she felt "a wonderful team spirit and a lot of cohesion among the players."

Merkeltalks with star midfielder Mesut Özil

Merkel frequently attends German national games, but she may not travel to Ukraine in Euro 2012

"Along with millions of people in Germany, I now simply wish the team success, and the necessary portion of good luck," Merkel said after eating dinner with the players.

A famous fan

Team manager Oliver Bierhoff - who scored the "Golden Goal" in the Euro 1996 final against the Czech Republic when Germany last lifted an international trophy - described Merkel's visits as a "good tradition," saying that "discussions with her are invariably very inspirational."

Bierhoff, captain Philipp Lahm and coach Joachim Löw were among the advance party that greeted the chancellor and showed her around their training resort before dinner.

Merkel and Lahm walk side by side, with Joachim Löw - among others - in the background

Captain Lahm missed Wednesday's training session - though the team said his absence was just a precaution

"It is always a great honor for us when Mrs Merkel is our guest at tournaments or international games. We have come to value the fact that supporting our team is close to her heart," Löw said.

Germany is considered a favourite to win the tournament, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Joachim Löw's lads face arguably the toughest group in the competition, however, and will need to overcome Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark in order to progress to the latter stages.

The tournament kicks off on Friday, with Poland playing Greece in Warsaw.

msh/ch (dpa, SID)