Summer fairy tale 2006: The summer fairy tale sky comparison | TIME ONLINE

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Written By Maya Cantina

In our column “Green space” Oliver Fritsch, Christof Siemes, Stephan Reich and Anna Kemper write alternately about the football world and the football world. This article is part of TIME on weekendsissue 25/2024.

One of my little big football kinks is vintage clothing. The My Friend is a Foreigner shirt from 1993? Included in advertising long ago. Ipswich Town’s 1991 Lotto track jacket? I’m desperate for her. The original WM Italia 90 shirt, currently 99 euros eBay cost? Well, I watch it until I finally have a weak moment.

When a Yeboah shirt from a ’94 thrift store arrived a few years ago, to my surprise it came with a small gift. A small plastic bag in black, red and gold and a rather busy design, lots of flags, a football, the letters “It smells like football” and in the middle: “WM Luft – The original German WM Air“. Someone from the online shop gave me: shrink-wrapped air from 2006.

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My first impulse: what kind of nonsense is this? Pack air and sell it? At best, you wouldn’t expect Nestlé to do that. But as I was about to throw the bag away, I stopped. Because what a summer it was then. The carefree attitude with which I drifted aimlessly and contentedly through the few weeks of the tournament. Three matches a day, a television for every bar, fans from all over the world, a group at every table that made a welcoming place for you. Come sit down, would you like a beer? A few memories for the rest of your life? Here you go: David Odonkor’s replacement. Poldi’s match against the Swedes. The completely beatable invincible Brazilians. Zidane’s headbutt. The parties, the soft evenings, the conversations after the matches until the morning. The 2006 World Cup summer was magical, nothing less. A time when the world stood still at least a little, was less hectic, more inviting. Visiting friends.

Maybe I’m romanticizing it, I’m certainly romanticizing it, but hey, isn’t that part of the deal? Right now I’m sitting at the laptop in a Maurizio Gaudino shirt and typing these lines. I can’t be nostalgic for football, there’s always a spark of melancholy somewhere behind all the 0-0’s and the latest news and what’s happening. Because every game is one that follows the previous one, and so on. They lie like pearls on a chain and go back from now to 2006 to Italia 90 to the moment when, as a child, I first sat in front of the flickering television, saw the sports show and thought: Wow! In that sense, watching football is always a way to stay in touch with myself, to give a nod to all the past selves I used to be. That’s why I never threw away that pack of air; it sat in the mailbox on my desk for years. When I hold it in my hands now, I think: I breathed this air, I was there in 2006, different, but still.

Now we find ourselves in a new summer fairy tale, or so we all hope. And that’s how it feels a bit. Spectacular games. A team with whom we were strangers for a long time, only to discover sympathy for them again. A relaxed atmosphere, not in the country in general, certainly not. But in front of the televisions, in front of the bars, at the tables where the groups sit and invite each other together. Am I romanticizing that too? Certainly. 2006 was already 18 years ago, all that time passed without even asking for permission. Will I look back on the 2024 European Championship with the same nostalgia? Hopefully. Will eternal memories be created the same way? Musiala’s dance? Gündoğan becomes captain? The crowning glory of Toni Kroos’ work? Are we experiencing a new summer fairytale? Who knows.

But maybe you can recognize it by the smell. What does the World Cup air smell like? the original German WM-Air, smells like football? What do the days of Odonkor’s substitution, Poldi’s finest hour and Zidane’s headbutt smell like?

I cut open the bag, let the genie out of the bottle, fanned myself, the genie of 2006. And smelled: mostly plastic. A touch of cleaning product. There’s something metallic behind it.

So not at all what I expected.

But when has football ever given me that?

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