German Turks warn of racism in anger following World Cup flop

Since Germany humiliatingly crashed out of the World Cup, a team member with Turkish roots has faced a hailstorm of criticism that Muslim and migrant groups charge is openly racist.

German Turks warn of racism in anger following World Cup flop
Özil playing at an English Premier League match in December 2016.

Mesut Özil, 29, quickly become a scapegoat for far-right populists, but the
storm escalated when even German football bosses, rather than defend him, suggested the squad may have been better off without him.

At the heart of the storm is a political controversy that flared before the World Cup started, when Özil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey's authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The incident sparked heated debate on whether the young men felt greater loyalty to their birth country Germany or to Turkey, the ancestral home of their families and of a three-million-strong minority group.

While Gundogan, 27, who plays for Manchester City, voiced dismay about the controversy, Özil, an Arsenal midfielder, further infuriated critics by staying silent on the Erdogan affair.

Özil, a key player in Germany's victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014, and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch which, according to Bild daily, reduced Gundogan to tears in the locker room.

But the anger escalated after Germany's shock first-round defeat to South Korea dismayed the football-mad nation.

SEE ALSO: 'Scapegoat' Özil should quit German team, says father

First off the mark was the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has long railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel's welcoming stance to refugees.

AfD lawmaker Jens Maier charged bluntly that “Without Özil we would have won!” in a tweet that also featured a picture of a smiling Özil and the words “Are you satisfied, my president?”

Charges of disloyalty

The far-right AfD has risen to prominence with such shrill provocations, repeatedly suggesting that the national team should be made up of white, ethnic Germans.

But Muslim and other minority groups see the broader finger-pointing as a sign of a dangerous societal drift to the right at a time when immigration is a hot-button political issue.

Cihan Sinanoglu of the Turkish community in Germany told news agency DPA
that the charges of disloyalty confirmed many Germans in their belief that “integration and multiculturalism have failed”.

The issue came to a head last week when German Football Association (DFB)
bosses, rather than try to defuse the situation, suggested the team may have
done better without Özil.

The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, called
for DFB president Reinhard Grindel and team director Oliver Bierhoff to resign.

Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the players grew up, also slammed the DFB chiefs.

“The notion that a photo with Erdogan is to blame for the defeat against football giants South Korea,” he said, “is an idea only DFB officials could come up with – after three weeks of pondering the issue”.

'In the crossfire'

Greens party politician Cem Ozdemir said that, although the Erdogan picture was a “grave mistake”, it did not justify the “clearly racist criticism” and accused the DFB of “cowardice”.

Author Baha Gungor said Özil “is suffering the fate of hundreds of thousands of Turkish-born young people in Germany, who have totally integrated but, because they are also committed to their Turkish roots, always end up back in the crossfire”.

Speaking to a Cologne newspaper, he cited a similar example from France where player Karim Benzema, who has Algerian roots, had once remarked: “If I score, I am a Frenchman. If I miss, I am an Arab”.

He pointed out that after racist attacks against Swedish international Jimmy Durmaz, who has Syrian roots, the entire Swedish team had backed their teammate and shouted “Fuck Racism”.

“And in Germany? Here, the racism raining down on the two players is still met with silence, a scapegoat is being sought by those who want to distract from their own failure”.

Özil's 50-year-old father Mustafa told newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Bierhoff's “insult … serves to save his own skin” but had left his son “crestfallen, disappointed and offended”.

“We used to say that if we win, we win together. But now that we lost, we
lost because of Özil?”

“If I were in his place, I would say thank you, but I'm done. The hurt has been too much. In Mesut's place, I would step down”.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.