Hannover (Germany): What was originally meant to be just another football friendly to try out tactics and players has now changed into a sign to the world as Germany decided to play their friendly against the Netherlands here on Tuesday evening.
After the terror attacks in Paris, with the German team being caught up right in the middle of the catastrophe, "the game against the Netherlands can't be a case of sport anymore".
"It's time to set a sign as our national football team stands for our values and culture, and that sport has to help to find answers and solutions," Xinhua quoted German team manager Oliver Bierhoff as saying.
"It is no longer a friendly like any other, it can't be a game with a La Ola atmosphere," commented the German Football Association's stand-in co-president Rainer Koch.
As all the members of the German cabinet and Chancellor Angela Merkel will attending the game, the Germans have changed the programme abandoning celebratory activities.
In addition, Germany head coach Joachim Loew has to change his plans after the 0-2 defeat against France last Friday when the German team spent the entire night at the Stade de France together with the French team in order not to take any risks.
Up to 80 persons were gathered in both locker rooms. Early Saturday morning, they flew back to Germany after travel;ing directly to the airport from the stadium. "It was a great sign of solidarity that the French team stayed together with us in the stadium to spend the night in safety," said Koch.
Finding out that the German team had to stay due to safety measures, the French team decided to stay as well.
While the French head off to their friendly in London against England this Tuesday, Germany face the Netherlands under totally different circumstances. Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich) is out, injured Mesut Oezil (Arsenal) and Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) were given a break, and now Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray Istanbul) and Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) are all sent to their home clubs to recover.
The game against the Netherlands will also take place without Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) and Jonas Hector (FC Cologne) who both have minor knocks. The 19-year-old Schalke youngster Leroy Sane will also join the German Under-21 team.
After the decision was made on Sunday afternoon to go on with "normal life" and play the Netherlands game, the German team gathered this Monday afternoon at their training camp near Hannover after they had spent a day off with their families at home. The German team hotel was put under tight security by the police after the attacks in Paris.
Having to replace several key figures, Loew now has to select his starting eleven out of a squad of 18 players. It means the second and third string will get a chance to perform in the German shirt in a game which normally is seen as a sort of "Classico" between the neighbouring countries.
Both coach Loew and team manager Bierhoff made clear that the Netherlands game is not seen as a sporting occasion. "What happened was the most dreadful thing that I've experienced in my life," said Jerome Boateng, "In times like that, football is not important anymore."
Boateng's teammates will have to replace Neuer in the German goal as Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96) will most possibly be between the posts. In front of him will be back line of four -- Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) and Emre Can (Liverpool).
Christoph Kramer (Bayer Leverkusen) and Sami Khedira (Juventus) will be in central midfield with a midfield row of three (Thomas Mueller/Bayern Munich, Ilkay Guendogan/Borussia Dortmund and Andre Schuerrle/VfL Wolfsburg). Max Kruse (VfL Wolfsburg) will act as Germany's spearhead.
Despite his reduced squad, Loew will make several changes during the game as six substitutions are allowed. But no matter who appears on the pitch, every German player will be aware that it is not a normal friendly anymore.
"We discussed this many times with the players since Friday night: Is it possible to play for us? But we came about that we want to set a sign for peace and democracy. It won't be a game we expect any answers regarding our future game style. What we want to do, is to play football with a fair amount of concentration," Joachim Loew said.
"It took a while to get over the first shock moments and we still have to, it was a frightful night, but now we want to set a sign for freedom and tolerance."