Mannschaft fans flock to RFK Stadium as Germany take on USMNT
WASHINGTON – The sun was beating down and humidity levels high, the mercury climbing towards 90 degrees as summer arrived in earnest in the nation's capital, but that didn't stop a passionate crowd of hundreds from filing into RFK Stadium to take in the German national team's training session on Saturday morning.
And perhaps most startlingly, the lion's share of them weren't traveling supporters from the mother country. These were American Mannschaft fans.
“I've always wanted to see them in person,” said Leah Poole, a 16-year-old who made the 80-mile trip from Winchester, Va. "It's just been like a dream of mine – I'd do anything for it."
Clad in a replica Germany jersey, Poole was perched at the railing separating RFK's first-row seats from the playing field along with dozens of other fans who begged the German squad for an autograph or a photo. She explained that she fell in love with Joachim Löw's side during their run to third place at the World Cup in South Africa three years ago, and that her favorite players are “probably [Lukas] Podolski and [Miroslav] Klose.”
The US national team host Germany on Sunday (2:30 pm ET, ESPN2; Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Most of the players heeded their fans' calls, going out of their way to sign shirts, balls and even a German flag or two after a draining session.
Further down the railings, D.C. resident Erin Hirt was lucky enough to get a picture with defender Per Mertesacker, though she admitted that Klose is the one she idolizes the most.
“I love the way that they play,” she said of the national team. “They play with a lot of sportsmanship, I think ... particularly Miroslav Klose. He always seems to play with a lot of integrity, I think. He doesn't dive, if his hand touches the ball he'll go over to the ref and say, 'Hey, I touched it.' So he's a great player.”
Hirt was seduced by the German game while taking postgraduate courses in Regensburg, Bavaria, and though she attends D.C. United and US matches at RFK, she'll be rooting for the visitors on Sunday.
Her brother Justin stood next to her at the training session, wearing a Bayern Munich shirt. He journeyed all the way from Indiana to take in the USA-Germany match, and is a bit more conflicted about his rooting interests.
“I love the integrity of the German national team, and the way they play,” he said. “They have great players – although I have to admit, I am also kind of rooting for the US national team ... I want a close game.”