Germany, Greece Face Off On Soccer Field

The eurozone will take a short break from its financial crisis to enjoy a sporting event. The soccer teams of Germany and Greece meet Friday in the quarter finals of the Euro 2012 championship in Gdansk, Poland. Germany's coach doesn't think political tensions will have an impact on the field.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Greece's effort to hold up its end of a bailout deal is now forcing it to sell a crown jewel. The Greeks wants to keep the euro as their currency. They want to receive billions in assistance, but they have to raise 50 billion euros on their own so that they're disposing of some real estate.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Government officials say they're going to sell of the Astir Palace Resort. Its guests over the years have ranged from Frank Sinatra to Jackie Onassis to Nelson Mandela to President Clinton, but it's been losing money for nearly a decade.

MONTAGNE: European leaders are meeting in Rome today, but not for long. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to leave in time to make the quarter finals of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.

INSKEEP: Germany is playing Greece. They're calling the Debt Derby. NPR's Eric Westervelt has the view from Berlin.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: To the tabloids here, the Greeks are corrupt, the bailout's a waste of hard-earned euro. To the Greeks, the Germans are the stern, unbending taskmaster and bully. The tabloid billed famously called on Greece to sell off the Acropolis to raise money. Greek papers have depicted Chancellor Merkel as a Nazi. It's a rivalry that's not new.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTY PYTHON SKETCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The Greeks are going mad. Socrates scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics.

WESTERVELT: That Monty Python sketch depicted a battle of German and Greek philosophers in the soccer field. These days it's economic philosophy that's pitting Greeks against Germans, but the German national coach Joachim Loew, doesn't think the political tensions will have an impact on the field. He says his team is preparing for quote "a normal football game." And German fan, Pieter Schabel doesn't see the game as a grudge match either. The Berliner will be watching from Greece. He's leaving this morning for a vacation in Athens.

PETER SCHABEL: The people are not a problem, politics are the problem. Yeah, you know. And I hope my friend will be there. It's a Greece friend, and I will take him in his arms and I wish him good luck for the game. That's all.

WESTERVELT: So maybe soccer will bring the eurozone together in a way countless summits and billions in bailouts have not. Fan Oskar Schauer is another who doesn't read any symbolism into tonight's game.

OSKAR SCHAUER: (German language spoken)

WESTERVELT: For me as a football fan it has no political meaning whatsoever. I do, however, think Germany will get through to the semi finals for sure, he says confidently. Germany's finance minister, who's been pouring the bitter medicine of austerity down Greek throats, is predicting a three-one victory tonight. As for the Chancellor's presence in the stands, Coach Joachim Loew says she'd agreed not to interfere in his instructions to the team, and he won't interfere in her political agenda. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.

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