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As German as Özil and Boateng

Marc Young · 12 Jul 2010, 12:08

Published: 12 Jul 2010 12:08 GMT+02:00

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Despite playing some of the most dazzling football of the tournament, Germany’s grasp for World Cup glory came up short this summer.

Turfed out of the semi-finals by a much more mature Spanish side that would eventually go on to hoist the trophy, it was a bittersweet end to a German Sommermärchen, or summer fairy tale, for coach Jogi Löw’s young team.

Still, Germans took heart as exciting new players like Thomas Müller, Mesut Özil and Jerome Boateng stepped on to the pitch and made the world take notice. Others, like the immensely impressive Bastian Schweinsteiger, filled the vacuum left by the national team’s injured captain Michael Ballack with aplomb. Playing a combination of stylish and effective football, they are certain to be a force to be reckoned with at the European championship in two years’ time.

But even more importantly, Löw’s multicultural team – 11 players have foreign roots – have come to reflect the diversity of modern German society. Just years ago it would have been unthinkable for Die Mannschaft to be made up of players with Polish, Turkish, Ghanaian and Tunisian backgrounds. That they are now considered “German” enough to take to the pitch for their country proves that more and more Germans are realizing theirs is a land of immigration.

On Saturday morning, I saw two little blond boys head back from a Berlin corner shop with milk and the newspaper for their parents. They both wore self-made German football jerseys – white t-shirts with player names and numbers in black ink. The older boy, maybe six, had “Neuer” in honour of Germany’s equally blond goalkeeper. But his younger towheaded brother was proudly sporting a misspelled “Ösil” on his back.

Considering Özil and Boateng probably would have chosen to play respectively for Turkey or Ghana only a few years ago, such heartwarming scenes can only help speed the integration of foreigners into German society. For only when immigrants feel both wanted and accepted will they have a real incentive to become happy and productive citizens. Unfortunately, it appears many still don’t.

That’s because amid all of the positive headlines about the diversity of the national football team, two worrying developments also came to light in recent weeks.

First, it was announced the number of foreigners becoming nationalized German citizens is dropping. Clearly people either don’t want a German passport or the government is not doing enough to encourage foreign residents to apply for one. Both should worry proponents of integrating immigrants into German society and encourage Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-wing government to drop its antiquated opposition towards dual nationality. By the same token, hysterical leftists need to stop harassing patriotic immigrants for supporting the German national team by displaying the country’s colours.

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Second, a survey showed the overwhelming majority of immigrant children face severe disadvantages in the German school system. Though it’s always tough for newcomers to adjust to a new country, education is the key to ensuring their children can improve their lot while giving something back to society. Naturally, not everyone can play dazzling football for the national team like Mesut Özil.

But people like Özil and Boateng can still be immensely important role models to kids from both German and immigrant families.

Their message? It doesn’t matter where you come from – everybody in Germany is playing on the same team.

Marc Young (marc.young@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:34 July 12, 2010 by michael4096
@perdido - as the introduction to an opinion piece by marc young, it is entirely appropriate

@marc - you are correct to point out that there is much to be done regarding immigrantion here but this does help illustrate that the usual "germany = discrimination" comments found on this forum says more about the comment authors than about germany
17:25 July 12, 2010 by mikecowler
Nice to see the local get in first on the nationality issue...i was born in my German grandfathers house in Germany...he fought in a war cos he had to for his country and so did my English grandfather...i have a German birth certificate and a British one and a English surname....i dont talk with a "zuh" for "the" etc but i must be immigrant of England and Germany? My English friends were wondering how long it would take some staunch deeply rooted Germans to blame Jogi for fielding GERMAN players with foriegn roots because Germany came third in the FIFA World Cup???
19:36 July 12, 2010 by jinxgelb
What an irony - the only ones not enjoying the team's performance and not feeling proud of it were the German Nazis. No German flags on the headquarters of the NPD this time. :-)
21:28 July 12, 2010 by jinxgelb
According to Godfrey B's logic Christ was frowning on the English then, probably because of their not being Christian enough... And he must have turned down the pleas of the Catholic Brasilians... as He did of the Catholic Argentinians...
22:45 July 12, 2010 by mikecowler
Technical skill detail is why Germany lost not nazism or heracy loonies!
01:31 July 13, 2010 by Rant&Rave
@Marc - Why are you referring to Jerome Boateng as a foreigner? He was born in Germany and his mum is German, so why are you only considering the African half of his heritage in your categorisation? In your world, do you think it's right to consider mixed-race individuals as foreigners in the land of their birth, even if one parent is German? Sounds like you're saying that German means "white Arian." And there I was, thinking that such views went out with WWII.

Since he didn't grow up in Ghana (where his father is originally from), you can't call him Ghanaian since he's probably linguistically, culturally, socially, and educationally etc shaped more by Germany, where he grew up and lives, rather than Ghana. That he has duel nationality is neither here nor there. That's mere paper work. If he self-identifies with Germany, his home, why brand him a foreigner? He has German genes alongside the Ghanaian ones; his mitochondrial DNA is German, so why are you referring to him as a foreigner? Because of the colour of his skin? Would you consider him a foreigner if his father were a white Brit? I seriously doubt it because his complexion would be more acceptable to you, not so?

Lily white Lu-Lu-Lu-Lucas Podolsky and Miroslav Klose are more "foreign" than honey-coloured Boateng on account of his mum and German upbringing. Please do not equate race and nationality.
07:26 July 13, 2010 by JAMessersmith
My family came to the US from a couple tiny villages in Baden-Wurttemberg called Ofterdingen and Tailfingen (near Tubingen and Albstadt respectively), which aren't exactly models of diversity, but that's true for most small towns around the world (especially when speaking of the Old World). However, I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and it obviously is a very global city, so it's funny when I hear Germans saying that their football team is diverse because they have a couple of black guys, a Turk, and a few Poles on the team. My neighborhood is more diverse than that. Granted, America is a modern nation of immigrants, and Deutschland is an ancient land where family histories stretch back for ages, so there is something to be said for that. But most big European cities nowadays, whether Berlin, Paris or London, are much more diverse than they used to be. Tis the age of globalism, I suppose
10:55 July 13, 2010 by The Local Germany

That's was exactly the point of the editorial - both Özil and Boateng are totally German, but unfortunately this has only become apparent to some people over the past few years. Because of this, you had footballers from immigrant families ending up playing for the likes of Turkey, Croatia or wherever. I'm also certainly not equating foreignness with race - I'm equating foreign with non-German roots because that's what Germany has long done. Fortunately this is slowly changing, as evidenced by the current national football team.

Marc Young
08:41 July 14, 2010 by E-Roc
My opinion on this whole article:


Move on to a new opinion piece or something, anything....
16:50 July 14, 2010 by slawek
First of all, I don't watch soccer at all. That said, I was thinking about the very same subject - why doesn't the German football team even come close to represent Germany's population.

To the outside world, it may seem like 20% of the German population is black, and most of it was born and/or grew up abroad, either in Turkey or Poland. Well, it would be great if that was true, but it rather seems that the German fans as well as the world are being tricked.

It seems like every country and especially Germany can become stronger if they can only pay enough money. Which would reveal the actual truth about German sports in general - greed.
12:51 July 16, 2010 by marimay
@ E-roc

LOL! Yeah, that picture is pretty horrible. Maybe we should be glad it wasn't written on the front-side, though. D:
17:54 July 16, 2010 by marimay
There, there, jolly, don't give yourself a stroke.
19:02 July 16, 2010 by martinjohn
Proud? Don't get it. Would China or India be proud if half their soccer side was Caucasian or African? Do not think so. They would not accept the absurdity. What is the point of international competition then? When is someone going to cry out against the destruction of European dignity and self-respect? Much as I enjoy watching Asian and African players perform, I cannot get excited about Germany winning a game when much of the team is not German, or even European. 2 millennia of cultural evolution must have some point surely?

I note that the winners were among the least multicultural of the lot. How fitting.
19:34 July 16, 2010 by marimay
Haha, he wants Germany to be like China and India. Way to aim high, buddy.

Though, it would be interesting to see an all-German Germany. Imagine how much more inbred they would look in 100 years.
04:57 July 18, 2010 by JoeRock213
I wonder how "multicultural" the Spanish team is? You won't read many articles about that though. hmmmm
10:49 July 18, 2010 by Ekoron

Dear ignorant, that's not how inbreeding works. Any population higher than 30 thousand is safe of any of the problems related to inbreeding, and Germany's population is much higher than 30 thousand. Next time inform yourself about the topic you're talking about, otherwise you're exposing yourself as a bitter ignorant spewing nonsense.
08:21 July 20, 2010 by shiraz
If you wish to integrate the Turks/ Muslims you may want to educate them, edify them and uplift them morally. Turning them into circus clowns / show men/ soccer players like they turn the African Americans into baseball/basketball/football players / rappers is probably not going to be good for either the minority or the host nation.

You want those who are already burned up by the sun to spend their days in perusing the books, inventing solutions to problems instead of kicking balls around , running with gangs (or acting in movies portraying gangsters) and other meaningless pursuits. It makes the minorities look bad and makes their lives difficult and only causes the kids to think "Maybe I should give up school and go after soccer/ rapping/ girls etc." This is not the way to invite them and integrate/ assimilate them into your society, one feels but one could be wrong.
09:56 July 22, 2010 by amarjeet

I watched practically all the 2010 world cup matches. Though Germany didn¦#39;t win the world cup, in my view its been the best team for various important reasons. All the German residents should learn from the team work and put all those fine qualities into play in their daily lives for a better and a prosperous country..

The coach has been a perfect example of a leader. Inspite of the poor and negative press coverage before the tournament started he wasn¦#39;t at all disturbed. He had a task to perform and stuck to it believing that he will do a good job. His body language and presence showed complete confidence and control. The players seemed to trust him and his methods. During each game, I am sure he must have been going through wild emotions but showed no anxiety, fear or worry. He was a picture of confidence and belief. One could sense that he had a plan and was sure of achieving his goal. He took young unknown boys and put a team together ­ a team which is respected and admired. With so many new faces, it sure is commendable that they achieved so much. He is perfect example to of a leader who has a plan, who is confident and above all one who can inspire his team towards a common goal. He made them believe that its wasn¦#39;t individual success that was important but the success of the team which will obviously result in each one benefiting. And that end has been achieved ­ I am sure that each player feels good about themselves and the comradeship they share. All the political, social, corporate and business leaders should learn from him, how to look after, train and encourage those working under them. In fact the coach should go around the country giving lessons/ seminars to leaders on leadership, teamwork, co operation, goal setting etc.

After the coach the team had to perform. The team work is beyond description. The results achieved wasn¦#39;t because of any one individual talent but because of combined unselfish effort of all towards winning. I say unselfish because there wasn¦#39;t a single player who worked or aimed for personal glory. The collective aim was to play well to get the ball into the opponent¦#39;s goalpost.. They have been a perfect example to show that if we work together we can achieve the unachievable against all odds. But we have to have the belief, the confidence, and the team spirit. We must have a common goal and be willingly to work hard and unselfishly. If each and everyone in the country adopts this attitude, I am sure Germany will be a much better place for everyone.

Congratulations to the coach and his team for the excellent show of strength, unity ,belief , teamwork and the unbelievable success. Hope all residents of Germany learn from them and try and put the same spirit into their daily lives for a better future.
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