Global Media Events and the Construction of National Identity. The 2006 Football World Cup in Germany

Term Paper, 2013

27 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The 2006 FIFA World Cup
2.1 Framework of the Tournament
2.2 As a Global Media Event
2.2.1 Football and ‘Mediatization‘
2.2.2 Theoretical Approaches and Characteristics
2.3 Constructing National Identity through Media Discourse
2.3.1 The Construction of German Identity and Pride in Media Coverage

3. Conclusion

4. References

1. Introduction

Never before has an event been presented in such an emotional and global manner as the FIFA 2006 World Cup in Germany which in light of this was the best World Cup of all time (emphasis added) (The Guardian 2006).

The above statement was made by Joseph Blatter, President of football’s world international governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), in the context of a newspaper interview. It clearly reveals the high level of importance ascribed to this event. With regard to the statistics of the FIFA (cf. 2006), the 2006 Football World Championships (for men) had a total cumulative television audience of more than 2.6 billion viewers worldwide and television coverage across 214 countries that generated over 73,000 hours of dedicated programming. The 18th FIFA World Cup (or simply World Cup) was held in Germany under the official slogan ‘A time to make friends’ (‘ Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden’) and had a huge emotional impact on the worldwide audience, (fan)-communities and especially on people from the host country. Wolfgang Schäuble, the German Federal Minister of the Interior, describes the “world’s top media sports event” (Schwier 2006: 79) in the Final Report of the Federal Government as follows:

Sönke Wortmann’s much-praised film titled ‘Germany - a summer dream’ [‘Deutschland: ein Sommermärchen’] aptly describes the atmosphere felt throughout the country from 9 June to 9 July 2006. Germany’s national team had the crowds singing, the wonderful summer weather kicked in just in time for the opening game, a sea of black, red and gold flags with fans from all over the world celebrating one big party peacefully and happily. In light of all this, the World Cup can also be described as an integration event that could hardly have been any better or more effective (The Federal Government 2006: 7).

Schäuble’s reference to Sönke Wortmann’s documentary ‘Germany - a summer fairy tale’ seems to be hardly surprising considering the subsequent use of the phrase ‘summer fairy tale’ in the (German) media coverage. This phrase has been used to “re-experience the positive feelings” (Sullivan 2009: 246f) of the 2006 World Cup and as a narrative frame in context of further (media) events. For instance, the press employed the term ‘winter fairy tale’ related to the 2007 German Handball team’s World Championship win in Germany or spoke of another ‘summer fairy tale’ after Germany’s victory of the Eurovision Songcontest in 2010 (cf. Neumann 2010). All the aforementioned information represents only a small number of many factors which contributed to the 2006 World Cup. It illustrates that there are various approaches to discuss this phenomenon across a wide range of dimensions including the social, political, economic and cultural.

This theoretically based paper will explore the relationship between the 2006 FIFA World Cup as a global media event, and the role of (tans-)national representations within this framework. What significance do forms of nationality have in the context of global, transnational media events?

I would like to discuss this question by using the example of the construction of national identity through media discourse. Due to the limited extent of the paper, the focus will be on specifically selected studies with regard to constructing German national identity through national narratives and media coverage within the scope of the 2006 World Cup. One reason for choosing this perspective would be its vast breadth of literature and research being done on Germany and its identity. Moreover, football has always been a phenomenon to express and experience local and national identities. Especially in Germany, exemplified by the so-called ‘Miracle of Berne’, Germany’s post-war victory in the 1954 World Cup final that evoked a wave of euphoria and is seen as a contribution to “the remaking of national identity” (Tomlinson, Young 2006a: xi). The relevance of my research question lies in the context of intensified globalization processes of media and communication and the progressive increase of worldwide communication relationships (cf. Hepp 2006: 67). Thus, this paper is concerned with different dimensions in regard to the correlation between media, events, globalization and transcultural communication including issues of representation, production, appropriation and identity.

The paper begins with a short outline of the general framework of the tournament, followed by a paragraph that deals with football and ‘mediatization’ in order to contextualize the FIFA World Cup 2006 through subsequent theoretical approaches of (global) media events. For this purpose, I especially refer to the much discussed and “path-breaking” (Hepp; Couldry 2010: 1) book Media Events (1992) written by Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz and as well to an extension and rethought version of the original concept “in a global age” (loc.cit.). After applying these theoretical approaches of media events to the FIFA World Cup 2006, I eventually come to the construction of national identity using the example of German identity through German media discourse in the context of the 2006 World Cup. Finally, I will draw a short conclusion with regard to my research question.

2. The 2006 FIFA World Cup

2.1 Framework of the Tournament

Besides the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup (for senior men's national teams) belongs to the “greatest multicultural sporting extravaganza of modern time” (Hay; Joel 2007: 1). The “biggest single-event sporting competition in the world” or “the final competition” as it is described by the FIFA (no date) is a one month-long tournament that has been played every four years since the initial tournament in 1930, except for two times during the period of the Second World War (cf. loc.cit.).

In 2006 the 18th FIFA World Cup was held from June 9th to July 9th in Germany, whereby the matches were spread over 12 host cities, each with a new or at least modernized stadium (cf. Hay; Joel 2007: 3). The organization of such a huge event was a big task for the FIFA in corporation with the local Organizing Committee (OC) of the World Cup 2006 over a four-year period.

From an economic point of view, the tournament not only imposes great costs for the host country including infrastructure investments, expenses on security and much more, but also represents a “multibillion- euro business” (Arens 2006) with event related revenues for the 2003-2006 period of about 2.9 billion CHF; 1.6 alone from the sale of television rights for the World Cup (cf. FIFA Financial Report 2006: 20). In addition to the multi-billion CHF profits, come the over 26 billion television viewers, cumulated over the tournament, who prove clearly that the World Cup is a “television event” (Gerhard 2006: 465). Heinz Gerhard (cf. 2006: 1) mentions 10 reasons for the high viewer acceptance of the Football World Cup in Germany within his analysis: (1) the type of sport and its long tradition; (2) the chances of success of the German team; (3) the strength of the football’s brand; (4) the personality of the players; (5) the broadcasting channel; (6) the character of an ‘event’; (7) the suitable preparation for television; (8) the time of the broadcasting; (9) the context of the program and last but not least (10) the widespread target audience.

The 32 competing teams of the 2006 World Cup had to qualify beforehand for this final tournament through the preliminary competition among 198 national football teams from all continents which began in September 2003 (cf. FIFA 2011: 4). The fact that there are actually more countries involved in the qualification process of the 2006 World Cup than there are members of the United Nations (cf. Hay; Joel 2007: 1), illustrates its significance as a “global phenomenon” (Mikos: 2007: 21) of the 21st century.

Furthermore, I should briefly sketch out another point which has been often mentioned within the media discourse and recent research studies in context of the 2006 World Cup: the role of Live Sites (also known as Public Viewing Areas) (see e.g. Rowe; Baker 2012) or so called ‘FIFA Fan Fests’.

The FIFA Fan Fest first became part of the official programme for the FIFA World Cup™ in Germany in 2006, following the huge success of unofficial public viewing events in Korea Republic during 2002’s edition of football’s flagship event. The huge success of the FIFA Fan Fest programme in Germany led to the concept being developed further for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, when not only the South African Host Cities but also six international venues hosted an event which welcomed over six million football fans over 31 days (FIFA 2012).

To summarize, it can be noted that there are many different aspects of the 2006 FIFA World Cup including political, financial, economic, sporting, reception and media issues (see I. Cluster below).

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2.2 As a Global Media Event

In the following section, I would like to elaborate on a perspective of the 2006 Football World Cup which encompasses media and communication processes beyond different contexts and media products, expressed in the form of a (global) media event.

The aforementioned increase of the role of Public Viewing Areas, as a new form of reception and participation, for the audience sets a good example for a part of a process that is called ‘mediatization’ (see Krotz: 2001). Therefore, I would like to expand at first on the process of ‘mediatization’ with regard to football. Afterwards, I will come to different theoretical approaches and characteristics concerning media events applying to the 2006 World Cup. I argue that the process of ‘mediatization’ plays a crucial role for the increasing importance of media events as a “genre of the ‘media society’” (Krotz 2007: 276) and also for the altering form.

2.2.1 Football and ‘Mediatization‘

A quick glance at the FIFA Football stadiums guideline for technical recommendations and requirements immediately reveals the close link between the spheres of media and football: “Stadiums should be designed to allow for state-of-the-art facilities to bring the highest-quality media coverage of football into the homes of millions of people around the world” (FIFA 2007: 139). The guideline includes detailed information about the optimal position of television booths, infrastructural media requirements, camera positions and much more (cf. FIFA 2007: 139-163). The controversial discourse whether football needs the introduction of the video evidence or how the video evidence might alter the game itself marks only one of many examples concerning debates of the media impact on football. Furthermore, you may encounter the entanglement between football and media within research literature, when ‘media football’ or “mediated patriot games” (Poulton 2004) are mentioned. Lothar Mikos, Professor of Television Studies, distinguishes four conditions that lead to a change of football and its fans: (1) a ‘reflexive modernization’, (2) the process of globalization, (3) processes of professionalization and commercialization and finally (4) the process of ‘mediatization’ (Mikos 2006: 93). In respect to analyzing media events, it is especially the last mentioned process that needs to be deepened.

Friedrich Krotz understands ‘mediatization’ not as a specific process but as a “meta-process of that is grounded in the modification of communication at the basic practice of how people construct the social and cultural world” (Krotz 2009: 25). In this sense, ‘mediatization’ represents a conceptual construct, similar to globalization or individualization, “to grasp media and societal change” (2009: 21, see also Krotz 2007: 45) on a macro level. Thus, ‘mediatized’ forms of social and cultural forms imply the relevance of media for different fields: e.g. work, politics, economy, sports or other parts of everyday life (cf. 2009: 24). One crucial characteristic of the process of ‘mediatization’ is the ‘dissolution of boundaries’ (‘Entgrenzung’) on at least three different levels: a spatial, a temporal and a social dissolution. Spatial boundary dissolution implies that media is increasingly available at more and more places, whereas temporal boundary dissolution means that more and more media is available at any time. And lastly social boundary dissolution signifies that media is more and more used in new contexts beyond their original purpose and penetrates increasingly all areas of human life (cf. 2007: 94-96).

Against the background of the ‘mediatization’ approach, Dohle and Vowe have developed a step model of ‘mediatization’ called “mediatization stairs” (“Mediatisierungstreppe”, 2006: 20f) in order to make media-bound changes empirically observable and analyzable. This model includes eight steps of ‘mediatization’, each step representing components of the field of sports. With each additional step, the media-bound changes of the respective sport become more extensive. The order of the steps does not necessarily imply the chronological order. The steps are from the bottom up: ‘mediatized’ (1) tools, (2) rhythms, (3) arenas, (4) experience, (5) actors, (6) resources, (7) rules and (8) varieties (cf. Dohle; Vowe 2006: 21). The intention of referring to the previously mentioned model, especially with regard to the paper’s original topic would not be and could not be an empirical study of each step of ‘mediatization’ in relation to the 2006 Football World Cup. But it is able to illustrate by means of fundamental examples that the World Cup or rather the World Cup’s football can be seen as a ‘mediatized’ form on different levels.

At the beginning of this paragraph, I already pointed out the media requirements that are defined by the FIFA Football stadiums guideline which would correspond to step three, ‘mediatized arenas’ of Dohle and Vowe’s ‘mediatization stairs’. Another example that I have been referring to, is the increasing role of Public Viewing Arenas (‘FIFA Fan Fests’) in the context of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. This example reflects the ‘mediatized experience’ on the described step model and also processes of social and spatial dissolutions. Additionally, it raises issues related to the altering experience and atmosphere offered by these “mediated public spaces” (Rowe; Baker 2012: 1) for the audience. A third example would certainly be the changing requirements for the football players and coaches. In addition to the athletic performance, the charisma and personality of the players and coaches are important to attract (worldwide) media attention. There are countless other examples to give.

But what should have become clear, is that the relationship between media and (global) events can be seen in the broader context of a process that is called ‘mediatization’. In light of this process, media events provide “causes of orientation, explanation of the world and interpretation” (Krotz 2007: 256).

2.2.2 Theoretical Approaches and Characteristics

First of all, for those who would like to examine media events in any form, the question of how a media event can be defined and characterized is fundamental. Therefore, it is worth mentioning that the relationship between media and events can be analyzed from different angles with various thematic priorities. It is noticeable that the term ‘media event’ is often used in common usage by the media themselves. It is employed knowingly in the context of marketing and or commercialization, for instance within the coverage of a certain event. Thus, Mathias Mertens (2006) has systematized five different contexts of using the term ‘media events’ in common usage within his article about the ‘process of media events’. He figured out that the major part of the texts that he analyzed defines a media event in terms of quantity: through the amount of media representatives, the amount of recipients or the amount of media coverage. The two usage contexts that are based on terms of quality are, on one hand, the form of media critique and, on the other hand, the usage of ‘media event’ in the field of Public Relations. The media critique implies that the occurrences would merely be a media event, extensive media coverage without a ‘real’ happening. In the field of Public Relations, the subject of the media coverage has simply been created in order to be a ‘media event’ (cf. Mertens 2006: 23-31).

From a scientific point of view, the book Media events. The Live Broadcasting of History (1992) written by Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz, both of whom are well-known scientists in Media and Communication Science, can be classified as a much-cited and probably one of the most important academic works concerning media events. Katz and Dayan understand media events figuratively speaking as “high holidays of mass communication” (1992: 1). This understanding refers explicitly to events that are presented on television: “Alternatively, we might have ‘television ceremonies’ or ‘festive television’ […]” (loc.cit.). Thus, media events in the understanding of Dayan and Katz appear to be a ‘television genre’ with specific format conventions and characteristics similar to news, sports, comedy or soap operas. Media events could be distinguished from the daily news and other genres by the following characteristics:

In fact, they are interruptions of routine [1]; they intervene in the normal flow of broadcasting and our lives. Like the holidays that halt everyday routines, television events propose exceptional things to think about, to witness, and to do. […] In the most characteristic events, the interruption is monopolistic [2], in that all channels switch away from their regularly scheduled programming in order to turn to the great event […] (Dayan; Katz 1992: 5).

Further traits of media events are that “the happening is live” [3] and that they are typically “organized outside the media” [4] (loc.cit.). For Dayan and Katz, media events are “preplanned, announced and advertised in advance” [5] and presented “with reverence and ceremony” [6] (loc.cit.). Lastly, media events “celebrate no conflict but reconciliation” [7] and “electrify very large audiences - a nation, several nations, or the world” [8] (loc.cit.). After mentioning these principles, it quickly becomes apparent that the 2006 World Cup applies many characteristics in this theoretical approach to a “form of ritual” media events (Hepp; Couldry 2010: 3). The World Cup is certainly a periodically reoccurring event but provides, through the building of high expectations linked to marketing campaigns or pre-coverage, live coverage and post-coverage, an interruption of the daily routine and broadcasting for the audience. Mathias Mertens grasps the pre-coverage, post-coverage and references to related topics in the context of a football game as a “communicative stretching” (“kommunikative Dehnung”, Mertens 2006: 36).

The monopolistic interruption of broadcasting can be illustrated by a specific German example related to the global sporting event of the 2006 World Cup: the German Football Association (German: Deutscher Fußball-Bund; DFB) organized a huge ‘reception-party’ after the tournament for the German national football team where hundreds of thousands of fans gathered on the ‘Fan Mile’ at the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. This spectacle was broadcasted live on all of the three German World Cup channels ARD, ZDF and RTL (cf. Lückerath 2006). However, it remains a particular example and is only indirectly directed to the World Cup on a global scale. The happening itself, that is to say the matches, opening and ending ceremonies, is broadcasted live.

Although it can be argued that the media have become more important in context of football with the background of the ‘mediatization’ process (see 2.1.1 Football and ‘Mediatization’), the World Cup is still organized outside the media by the FIFA.

The ceremonial presentation that Dayan and Katz have described might be clearly identified in opening and ending ceremonies of the World Cup which can be seen on television all over the world. The opening ceremony marks not only the start of the month-long tournament, but serves as a stage for the organizers to represent Germany as a good host country and an positive image of Germany to the world. The opening ceremony of the 2006 World Cup was held in Munich's Allianz Arena and includes for example typical Bavarian elements like folk dancing and dirndls but also popular music bands like Seeed or Herbert Grönemeyer who was performing his World Cup song Zeit, dass sich was dreht. The former World Cup winner Pelé carried the World Cup trophy to the playing field, together with the German supermodel Claudia Schiffer (see II. Press Photos of the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony) and much more .

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In addition to these ritually opening and ending ceremonies, the playing of the national

The elements of the tournament including the opening and ending ceremonies, anthems and the presenting of the national flags before kick-off are all crucial in establishing symbolic meanings in the context of football. Moreover, they contribute to the sense of national identity and patriotism (cf. Schwier 2006: 86) which will be discussed in detail within the next paragraph of this paper.

By reconciliation, the scholars mean that the media event’s “message is one of reconciliation, in which participants and audiences are invited to unite in the overcoming of conflict or at least in its postponement or miniaturization” (1992: 23). Although, sport events like the World Cup are claimed to be a battle of the nations, the slogan of the World Cup 2006 ‘A time to make friends’ (‘ Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden’) aims to bring the world closer together. Sanna Inthorn even points out that football which is sometimes called a ‘world religion’ or ‘lingua franca’ is attributed to have the power to “unify the most diverse societies and countries” (Inthorn 2007: 98f). Football legend Franz Beckenbauer who was the President of the Executive Board of the Organizing Committee (OC) of the 2006 World Cup, commonly known as ‘The Kaiser’, described the peaceful atmosphere between the international fans as follows: “When I see the fans celebrating on the fan mile, then I say to myself that is how God in Heaven really planned the world” (The Federal Government 2006: 14). Here too, the religious reference becomes clear.


Excerpt out of 27 pages


Global Media Events and the Construction of National Identity. The 2006 Football World Cup in Germany
University of Bremen  (Institut für historische Publizistik, Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft)
Transcultural Communication
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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820 KB
Transcultural Communicaton, National Identity, Medie Representation, Football World Cup, WM 2016, Media events
Quote paper
Master of Arts Ann-Christin Westphal (Author), 2013, Global Media Events and the Construction of National Identity. The 2006 Football World Cup in Germany, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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