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Government honour Germany for Brazil triumph

Germany's highest sporting award, the Silver Laurel Leaf, has been presented to the national team for their achievement in winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The World Cup squad at the reception
The World Cup squad at the reception ©Getty Images

Germany's highest sporting award, the Silver Laurel Leaf, has been presented to the national team by the country's federal president Joachim Gauck in Berlin on Monday.

At the ceremony in the Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the president, the world champions were recognised for their outstanding performances at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil – where they became the first European team to win the world title on South American soil.

In the presence of German chancellor Angela Merkel, federal minister of the interior Thomas de Maiziére, FIFA president Joseph S Blatter and German Football Association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach, the federal president not only thanked the players and the coaching staff, but also the "team behind the team" for a moment "in which all of us in Germany felt as if we'd become world champions".

"Football is more than just a sport in our country," added Gauck. "Society lives off the existence of that feeling of unity. And, as peculiar it may sound, sometimes you can achieve something for the entire society, even though you may not think about it in particular.

"What a confident victory! What an outstanding performance, which has been ungrudgingly recognised by the opponents. What a strong, sympathetic team, which was inspiring in sporting and personality terms."

The ceremony had a refreshingly relaxed atmosphere - perhaps also due to the World Cup trophy which – polished to high gloss – sat enthroned in the very first row and perhaps provoked a sense of joy among the players again.

Philipp Lahm, the captain of Germany's World Cup squad who has retired from international football in the meantime, handed over a book to Joachim Gauck containing special pictures from the team's time in Brazil, and thanked both the federal president and chancellor for their motivational speeches.

"A lot of us are not here for the first time," said Lahm. "But it is still a special occasion, because it is the first time that this generation has brought the trophy along. For us, it was always special when you came to the dressing room."

The event was rounded off with an appearance by Andreas Bourani, who performed his song 'Auf uns', a hit which became the anthem for the German team this summer. The team, staff and most honorary guests were scheduled later to watch the world premiere of the movie 'Die Mannschaft' – a homage to the success in Brazil.

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