Germany was eliminated from the soccer World Cup. This defeat “feels like the end of something,” wrote the Guardian. A sentence that shows that there is much more at stake than football.

Football is a game, but a game that reflects our soul. A society finds its expression in the way it plays. We see Hansi Flick and vaguely recognize Olaf Scholz’s little brother. We look at the national team and we look at ourselves.

On the pitch, our relationship between risk and safety, our attitude towards fairness and violence, but also our work ethic, courage and ability to be creative are visible.

To a certain extent, a visualization of our operating system takes place. The sociologist and football expert Norbert Seitz says: “There is a symbolic correspondence and atmospheric similarities between politics and football.”

Which brings us to the humiliating defeat of the soccer World Cup. The British newspaper The Guardian wrote: “Despite Flick’s urgent talk of a new beginning, this feels like the end of something.”

At this point at the latest, not only the national coach and the players should sit up and take notice. We, as citizens, are also participating observers of a long coming to an end, which relates to our previous way of living, working and making politics.

We’re not bad, but the others are better.

We are witnessing the relative descent of a nation that – after the debris of war had been cleared away – was repeatedly celebrated as a world champion in prosperity, growth and exports. This new Germany fought.

It excited. It has found itself in reunification. We have often been the tournament winner of globalization. The world as a summer fairy tale.

This self-confident but not arrogant country no longer exists. We have become strangers to ourselves, although – or precisely because – we have hardly changed. Germany is still playing with the operating system of the 20th century – not only in football.

The team is missing “the dirty – we are a very, very nice team,” said defender Antonio Rüdiger, who earns his money at Real Madrid. His diagnosis extends beyond football.

German statehood looks like a big DFB – slack and often downright impotent. Not only does it lack the dirty, it lacks the desire for innovation. Our public service is an analogue system in which the paper rustles and the coffee machine rattles.

Our welfare state is paying more and more people out, even though the supply chain has broken on the part of the payers. The two large state-owned companies – Bundeswehr and Bahn AG – are dysfunctional: lazy and unimaginative, they make ends meet.

This national economy hasn’t had an economic tournament win for a long time, even if the BioNTech founders were able to score a surprise hit that received a lot of attention.

But Germany as a whole is no longer admired, but often mocked. The moderator and his discussion group on Qatari television gleefully covered their mouths to say goodbye to the tournament. And goodbye!

Nobody wants to take responsibility for what Johannes B. Kerner called a “historic defeat” in the evening. The DFB works like the party state; only in perseverance is one still at the top.

The similarities are of a systemic nature: in his previous life, the football president was SPD state manager in North Rhine-Westphalia and spokesman for the SPD party executive in Berlin.

Learned is learned: In the parliaments as well as at the press conferences of the DFB, the ready-made, stamped phrases are handed out. The government exaggerates itself, the opposition crushes it. And every few years it changes.

Only the game system always remains the same. The DFB boss wants to “now look ahead” and “initiate an orderly process on how to deal with this situation”.

Those who cannot deliver the core of their mission – winning a tournament in football, generating wealth in politics – dodge the issue of attitude.

From now on it will be creamy. Instead of hard indicators, you now want to be morally superior. Politics and football are suddenly no longer successful, but right. You get kicked out, but with attitude. The balance sheet used to be clean, now the conscience.

Value-based football means politicization and thus defocusing of the players. Value-based economic policy is tantamount to a subscription that will make you poor.

Robert Habeck gets out of coal like nuclear energy at home and does not get into fracking, which is why one has to buy expensive fracking gas from America and Arabia as well as nuclear power from France.

But be careful, comparing does not mean equating: Hansi Flick and his national team are clearly at a disadvantage here. If the national coach were allowed to buy extraterritorially like the minister, Flick would have ordered three goals on the spot markets in the Japan game.

If the DFB were allowed to buy its victories on credit, it would long ago have set up a special fund to finance missing game ideas.

“I’m afraid of falling into a hole,” said Kimmich after the early exit. And the same is true for many people today. The federal government’s bought victories are not warming. The eternal ice age reigns on top of the mountain of debt.

There are great players in the land of family businesses. They are called hidden champions because they have mastered their technique, because in cooperation with suppliers and dealers they know how to storm, wall and clear the field from behind in a compact formation.

But even the greatness of an economic nation does not result from the addition of its moves. Just like on the soccer field, a mental bracket is also needed here, a game idea that connects the many I’s to form We.

This guiding principle is missing from the DFB and the Federal Chancellery. Why do we score goals? Why are we increasing gross national product?

Everything seems piecemeal; in government and on the soccer field. The actors suffocate in their rituals and delight in the staging of significance.

We see them but we don’t feel them. They speak, but not to us. When they get a chance to speak on the radio, the taxi driver looks for the nearest music station with routine indifference.

This indifference is dangerous for both football and politics because it leads to social paralysis and bad moods. Before ascension comes belief in ascension.

And after faith comes hard work. Or to say it with Jürgen Klopp: “Sometimes I have the impression that I’m the only one in this country who believes more in training than in transfers.”

Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.