In further evidence that football is a window into the national soul, German sports have been roiled by the news that a B-league referee was on the take. Robert Hoyzer has admitted to fixing 5 football matches, and is on the record that others are involved. The story has legs like Bernie Kerik's : there are alleged mob connections, possible player involvement, and general venality galore.
The Germans are characteristically mortified. Instead of gleefully turning over rocks, as the NY Post was doing with Kerik, tabloids like Bild are frantically laying bare detail after detail-- how bad is it??-- like a mother dealing with diaper leakage on the subway.
No German source can go two paragraphs without mentioning the World Cup, to be hosted by Germany in summer 2006. Despite the vast indifference of even the rest of Europe, German papers are hanging national prestige on a good games. "We're not Athens" is the mantra. A recent headline trumpeted "500 days away and the stadiums are almost built." ("We're not Athens.") So, in what I can only describe as neurosis, this revelation of corruption keeps getting described as casting a cloud over the World Cup games. ("We are Athens, after all.") In America, the revelation that a 25-year old ref was corrupt would not lead newspapers to worry about the Super Bowl-- especially not a year and a half distant. (I think you would see comparable grousing among American teams and fans though. One coach is blaming his firing on a single questionable game.) In France, he'd probably be "retired" to a government job. In Italy, he'd still be working.
Human nature being what it is, I am sure that venal behavior is just as prevalent here as anywhere else, but I keep getting suprised by the strength of German reactions when it's revealed. There is something about corruption which truly freaks them out. Not only are they angered, but also frightened, as if a corrupt German would bring down the whole house of cards.
UPDATE: Bild's headline today: BUNDESLIGA SCANDAL: THE FIRST ARRESTS.