Berlin is a wonderful city during the soccer world championship. Most Spätis (small convenience stores) just place large TVs on the sidewalk and every 50 meters or so there's a makeshift outdoor sports bar. When Germany gets a goal, you can hear cheering and fireworks across the city. But when Germany loses and is no longer playing, the city seems to suddenly go quiet.
The headline today of the Berlin tabloid newspaper BZ was Die Mannschafft sich ab, reflecting the fact that after having lost 0-2 to South Korea, the German soccer team, reigning world champions, are out of the World Cup after only three games. The accompanying photograph was of five players on the field at the end of the match with their hands on their heads, much like prisoners being led away under arrest. Very depressing indeed!
The phrase in the headlines is not strictly correct, grammatically speaking. It's a play on words of the noun die Mannschaft ("the team") and the verb abschaffen ("to abolish," "to do away with," "to eliminate"). The proper non-wordplay version would be Die Mannschaft schafft sich ab. An approximate translation could read "The team eliminates itself," as they have been eliminated from playing in the World Cup.
Let's take a look at some other contexts where the verb abschaffen can be used in the present tense:
Eine Partei im deutschen Bundestag will die Pressefreiheit abschaffen.
A party in the German Parliament wants to abolish the freedom of press.
Caption 9, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 3Play Caption
Man will die Buslinie abschaffen, mit der Sie immer zur Arbeit fahren.
They want to get rid of the bus route that you always ride to work with.
Caption 25, Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Einbürgerungstest - Part 5Play Caption
By the way, it's not possible for a political party to "do away" with freedom of the press in Germany because it's a basic constitutional right, but if a bus line is being cut, you can start a citizen's initiative to save it. Unfortunately, no basic rights or citizen's initiatives will be able to bring the German team back into the World Cup!
Insgesamt zweiundzwanzig Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen wurden heute auf hessischen Autobahnen abgeschafft.
Twenty-two speed limits in total were scrapped today on Hessian autobahns.
Captions 7-8, Deutsche Autobahnen - GeschwindigkeitsbegrenzungenPlay Caption
„Captain's Dinner“ [Englisch] und feste Tischzeiten wurden abgeschafft.
The "captain's dinner" and fixed meal times were done away with.
Caption 18, Kreuzfahrtschiff - An Bord der Europa 2Play Caption
Früher hatten sie solche Riesenmaschinen, aber die haben sie abgeschafft.
Long ago they had such giant machines, but they have abolished them.
Captions 40-41, Piggeldy und Frederick - MaschinePlay Caption
It's interesting to note that by taking the verb schaffen ("to create") and adding the prefix ab-, you essentially create the opposite of "create" with abschaffen: "to abolish."