No one who followed the World Cup was surprised when FIFA selected Manuel Neuer as the winner of the 2014 Golden Glove award. The German goalkeeper, known for roaming far beyond the goal area to execute spectacular defensive moves (including a Harald Schumacher-esque challenge that nearly knocked out Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuaín in the second half of the final), is widely considered one of the best in the world, and his talent was one of the key factors that propelled Germany to victory in Brazil.
There was, nonetheless, one surprising element of Neuer’s Golden Glove ceremony. After shaking hands courteously with German President Joachim Gauck, Neuer moved down the line to German Chancellor Angela Merkel—and, after shaking hands with her, he leaned over for a hug. Actually, “leaned” is not quite the right word: Neuer lifted his left leg behind him in a graceful arabesque, pivoting the entire length of his 6-foot-4 body to bring his head and shoulders to the 5-foot-5 chancellor’s level.
Merkel later hugged the rest of Die Mannschaft as they collected their gold medals, but none of those embraces rivaled the Neuer hug for goofy spontaneity. Everything about the moment—the apparent emotional warmth between the 28-year-old athlete and the 59-year-old politician, their height discrepancy, the tiny chance that Neuer might lose his balance and topple over onto the one of the most powerful women in the world—was rivetingly perfect.
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