Flensburg Files receives a New Face

Dawn of a new day for the Files

In the past two months, I have been doing some reconstruction of the two online columns to provide readers with more access to the columns, let alone comment on them or even offer suggestions. While the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been off and running since finishing its facelift three weeks ago, I’m pleased to inform you that the Flensburg Files has also undergone a similar facelift. Many of you have already seen the new background of the Files page, which has gone from being a blackboard filled with scribbles of thoughts and ideas to that of an album of photos and a journal on a wooden boat. It does represent the work of a columnist who is collecting some thoughts and images while sailing on a yacht.  Yet there are a few minor changes that will make the Files a bit more interesting in the coming months.
The format of the Files is more or less the same. We’ll have some profiles on places to visit in the US, Germany, Europe and elsewhere, as usual, keeping the tourist aspect in one spot. We will include some more current events and in some cases, comparing certain themes between the US and Europe. This will include some project themes that will be showcased on a quarterly basis, minus the Christmas markets and some themes that are still being written and showcased. As indicated in the last entry, we have a couple project themes in the making- the problem with German soccer, which will be followed by some topics pertaining to the upcoming US Presidential elections in November and how it will affect US-German/European relations.  All project themes that are being worked on will be listed under the Page “About the Flensburg Files,” with some information on their progress. And while all the tributes and author’s thoughts will remain as is, there will be a separate section on foreign languages, as there have been some interesting aspects on English, German and other languages that I witnessed that have not been mentioned by others (but should be). The articles will be categorized based on the themes presented.
Like the Chronicles, the Files has also gone public via facebook and Twitter. Just click on the symbols on the Subscription page and you can follow the postings from there. An RSS feed is also available for you to subscribe to the Files. For the Twitter page, it is the site of both columns, so do not be overwhelmed with the bridge articles that happen to show up on the list. Just find the articles with the Flensburg Files name on them and you are there.  Should you have any questions or comments and would like to address them to the author directly, please use the following e-mail address: Flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.
After taking a semi-hiatus because of the facelift, it is time to go to work. There is a lot of catching up to do and therefore, without further ado, enjoy the articles to come in the Files. Adieu and until next time….

Lazarus the Bee

Say hello to Lazarus

The last weekend in May has always been touted as the celebration of life. In the USA, we honor our fallen war veterans through Memorial Day and reflect on how the soldiers gave their lives for their country, regardless of when and where they fought. While we do not have such a celebration in Germany, we do take some time off from our work and celebrate Pentecost, a religious holiday commemorating the rise of Jesus Christ and his journey to heaven and where we reflect on how He has influenced our lives through faith and love. Like Memorial Day, we have Mondays free, as well as some Tuesdays for companies that allow it.
This Pentecost weekend was a rather special one for me and my family, as we enjoyed a picnic in the breezy spring sun and took advantage of what nature brought us and spent it in the wilderness. After all, the forest was only a few minutes away from our home by foot going up the hill in the Thuringian Forest. It was also a special moment for one particular bee, who had a moment of resurrection, right before my eyes.
While we were taking photos, I noticed a thick black object on the tip of one of the weeds not far from our picnic spot. Taking a closer look at it, it was a large Bumblebee who was collecting pollen for himself and his colony from this particular weed, only to find that despite the breeze- which would normally shoo him off the weed and away from the field, he stood still, not moving at all. Even when I brought the weed up close to the camera, he appeared lifeless, as if a certain poison from the pollen sucked the tiny bit of life out of him. Even his eyes appeared closed and still creating an impression that he was no longer living.

Coming back to life

After I had stopped taking photos of the “dead” bee, I turned away for a few seconds only to find that when I returned to the spot, the first signs of life came back into the bee. It came back to life as if he reanimated himself and pretended that this stillness, this frozen moment in time had never taken place. After spending a few more minutes collecting the pollen he needed, he left to find some more pollen to collect, but he left an impression worth remembering.
When I think of this event, I remember the readings of the Bible, where Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after he was in still state for four days. For more on that, please refer to the Gospel of John 11:1-46 and 12:9-12. Many thought that Lazarus could not come back to life, until Jesus proved them wrong.  In scientific terms I remember my science teachers talking about how many amphibians would freeze in the winter time, only to reanimate themselves in the spring time to resume their livelihoods.
But the event did present an even truer meaning as far as our lives are concerned. In our society, we manage to go through life as if it was a throw-away society. We try one thing, realize that it is not our cup of tea and therefore, we throw it away for something new. This not only applies to careers- after all it is understandable if we change careers at least three times in our lifetimes. It is universal. We change partners in a short time, we change places and go where the jobs are, and we even change our hobbies- ditching one hobby we had for many years for something new. We sometimes do too many things all at once. Yet little do we realize is that we never really have a chance to get to know ourselves and find out what we are really good at. And when we find out some of the strong points we are really good at, we do not exploit it properly. Instead of being the best in what we do, we strive for money, power and recognition. We ignore who we are and become machines destined for disaster. When we fail in what we do, we give up, instead of trying again. When we make mistakes, we keep moving instead of reflecting on the mistakes and finding ways to avoid them. And in the end, when things really go downhill, we leave everything for dead instead of resuscitating them, starting over and climbing back to the top again. Many of us have become the nomads of the 21st Century.

Busying himself with what he does best- living his life the way he sees it.

We all have our flaws and memories worth forgetting. But we also know that we are here for a reason, which is to provide others with our own natural talents and make them happy. There are some experiments we try and fail and let go. It is all part of life. But the most important is to try and determine which aspects of life really belong to us and that we should develop, and which ones are worth leaving behind. It is very difficult to achieve this but when it is done, we will not be considered by others as “dead to society-“ a pile of scrap heap that can be disposed of and incinerated. Instead we will be considered by others as useful because we know who we are, where we belong to, and who we should spend our lives with.
And even if things are very bleak and that our lives are considered nothing- we have been through all that at least a couple times in our lives- if we learn about ourselves and love ourselves for who we are, we too can come back to life to make a difference. It is never too late to change but only based on our natural instincts and not that of others. Our bee, whom I named Lazarus, reminded me of this as he “came to the living” after a long rest on a sunny day in the fields, making our Pentecost one to remember. I hope that others can learn from this experience too and find out more about themselves.

The Problem with Soccer in Germany Part 1: Overview

People have their favorite sports that they love to watch. In the US we have our traditional sports of baseball, football, ice hockey and basketball, but we also have our state-of-the-art type of sports as well, like bungee jumping, skateboarding, karate, etc.  In Germany we have handball, basketball and especially soccer. Why especially? Like in other European countries, we take to soccer like church-goers take to the Bible. We watch the German Bundesliga games every Saturday and Sunday and for many, they become emotionally attached to their favorite teams. Yet the events that have occurred in the last two weeks have raised the question of whether German soccer has become a dysfunctional sport, where the relationship between the fans and the soccer teams have become as frigid as the Winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively, where money is the determining factor to keeping an elite team in the elite league, and cities that deserve to be in the Upper House have been denied and others with financial and management issues should be relegated to a local soccer team to be cleansed of their troubles. Professional players are emigrating to other countries and the most disturbing development is the fan behavior at the soccer games, which has reached the point where a potential disaster is in the making, waiting to strike at a moment’s notice without any way of averting it.

The Flensburg Files will present a series on The Problem with German Soccer, which will focus on the following topics that will be presented during the summer months with some solutions on the part of the author, based on information collected both written and orally. Here are some topics that will be presented that will provide the audience with an opportunity to look at the problems facing soccer in Germany and its potential to spread to other places where the sport has established a fan base, like the US and Canada, as well as those in southern and eastern Asia and parts of Africa, just to name a few:

The Fan Problem: In light of the recent events this past season in places, like Rostock,  Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt, fan rowdiness has taken new forms to a point where the teams are having difficulty controlling them and the German Soccer League (DFL)’s attempts of sanctioning them have proven futile. This segment will feature the gravity of the situation and present some solutions to make soccer a fun and safe sport to watch.

The Financial Problem: In order to host games in the upper leagues, teams have to have sufficient liquidity in order to compete. Yet in recent years, teams are having problems coming up with financial support in order to even survive. Using the examples of Hansa Rostock and TuS Koblenz this segment will focus on the problems facing these teams and how they are struggling to survive.
The Management Problem: Tied in together with the financial difficulties the soccer teams face, this segment will focus on ways teams can effectively manage themselves without having to change personnel.

The East-West Problem: It is amazing that after 22 years we still have this issue even in sports. Here, we will focus on the difficulties of the soccer teams in eastern Germany (the former GDR) keeping up with the western counterparts.

And lastly, we’ll look at cities of the past and present whose soccer teams have risen and fallen from the top. This has been divided up into three segments: The shooting stars, The fallen stars, and The Has-beens- meaning the teams that used to be powerhouses in the past but have since been a memory.

The goal is to address these problems to the public and encourage ways to support German soccer in a positive way and make this a sport for people to watch and have fun. This includes encouraging good sportsmanship and stressing the importance of solidarity in the sport. After all, German soccer is a very popular sport that many people around the world watch and it would be a shame to see its reputation tarnished due to its destructive patterns that we have seen in recent times, some of which has a recipe for disaster if they persist without any concrete measures to stop them.


As we are still on the same page, here are some interesting events, most of which will be mentioned in the series:

Dortmund grabs a double.  For the first time ever in the history of German soccer, the soccer team Borussia Dortmund won a double championship. It had won the German Erstliga Title two weeks before thanks to some key victories over Bayern Munich, Mönchengladbach and Schalke, just to name a few. On 13 May, it completely swept the series against Bayern Munich in the German Cup (German: DFB Pokal) but in a fashionable way: a 5-2 spanking over the team which had won seven out of the last 15 cups and won the regular season title nine times since 1997. Congratulations to Jürgen Klopp and his team for accomplishing a monumental task.

Podolski goes to Arsenal (London). One of the key players of the 2010 German soccer team as well as the German team FC Cologne, Lukas Podolski signed an unlimited contract at an undisclosed amount to play for Chelsea in the British Premier League beginning next season. The move was perfect timing as Cologne finished second to last in the standings and therefore must play in the second league in the 2012/13 season. Arsenal London has won 13 Premier League Titles (including the last one in 2003/04) and holds the record for being in the Top 5 standings of the Premere League, it has just finished its 16th straight season near the top. Podolski started his career at Cologne before going to Bayern Munich in 2006 and played for three seasons before returning to Cologne.

Hansa Rostock saved from bankruptcy. Once the darling of soccer in eastern Germany and the last team to win the soccer title and the national cup for the now defunct East Germany (GDR) in 1991, Hansa Rostock used to plague many traditional soccer teams until it faced financial trouble and was forced to relegate in the second and third leagues. On 9 May, the Rostock City Council voted unanimously for a financial package to provide partial debt relief for the beleaguered soccer team, whose debt had soared to 8.5 million Euros. At the same time, a financial shot of 750,000 was given to the team to play in the Third League in the coming season as the team finished dead last in the Second League. Had the city council voted against the measure, the team would have been forced to file for bankruptcy, which would have resulted in an automatic relegation into the fourth or fifth league. Worst case would have been the team being liquidated, which would not have been the first time it had happened. Saxony Leipzig, which had played mostly in the fifth league since its inception in 1991, was liquidated last year as it was unable to support itself financially. In addition, Bayern Munich, one of Rostock’s archrivals in the Erstliga, will travel to the city to face the team in a benefit soccer game sometime in 2013.

Relegation Games end with a bang! Sanctions being considered. In the first three tiers of the German Bundesliga, there is a relegation game where the team finishing third to last in an upper league takes on the team finishing in third place in the league lower than that. The concept has worked wonders since 2010 but this year’s relegation games have come at a price. For the first time in 15 years, Jahn Regensburg (which played in the third league) and Fortuna Düsseldorf (which played in the second league) are being promoted to the second and first leagues after downing Karlsruhe SC and Hertha BSC Berlin respectively. However both games were overshadowed by violence, fireworks, and in the game between Berlin and Düsseldorf, fans running onto the field with two minutes left in the game forcing the referees to stop match for 20 minutes. The DFB is investigating each incident and sanctions are pending. The two incidents are part of a list of other incidents which has plagued the 2011/12 season and has forced the DFB to look into tougher guidelines for fan behavior in general. More on that in the next article on the problem with German soccer.