German foul on integration?
Özil, son of Turks, is being scapegoated for country’s World Cup exit, write Georg Ismar and Sophia Weimer
HOW far has Germany come in integrating its residents of nonGerman background? It’s a question raised often in debates in parliament, night-time talk shows, churches and among folks in their local taverns.
But a harsh spotlight on the issue has now been cast from an unexpected quarter, one which had been touted as a shining example of multicultural integration: German football. And the lightning rod for the matter is star player Mesut a German-born son of Turkish immigrant parents and one of the heroes of Germany’s 2014 World Cup championship team.
Now, however, in the wake of Germany’s quick exit from the
2018 World Cup, is being made the scapegoat in some quarters – especially the anti-foreigner rightwing AfD party. The public debate, sometimes in barely concealed racist language, has asked where
loyalties really lie.
This question in turn goes back to the controversial incident several weeks before the World Cup when in London he and another ethnic Turkish player for the national team, Ilkay Gündogan, posed for photos with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While Gündogan later conceded that meeting Erdogan had been unfortunate, has so far remained silent, behaviour that has all the more fuelled the flames against him. Unjustly so, some argue.
“The idea that a photo with Erdogan is to blame for the defeat against footballing giants South Korea is something that only DFB (the German Football Confederation) functionaries can come up with after three weeks of thinking,” said North RhineWestphalia premier Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
Coming to defence, among others, is Arsene Wenger, his longtime trainer at FC Arsenal, who said the 29-year-old seemed to “have the handbrakes” on at the World Cup.
“This is not the true Oezil that I know,” he said.
But some heavyweights in the DFB ranks have been pushing against including DFB president Reinhard Grindel and DFB general sports director Oliver Bierhoff, who are demanding that Oezil make a public statement.
Grindel – who as a CDU deputy in parliament made a controversial speech back in 2004 demanding that foreigners should absolutely integrate into society and not maintain a double identity – said it must be seen whether will be kept on the team.
For many Germans of ethnic Turkish background dilemma is one that Germans have not been good at understanding.
The question can be asked: how prepared are the Germans to accept the foreigners in their midst?
And is it possible that foreigners do huddle together in the cities because they feel cold rejection from many Germans?
Journalist Baha Gungor told the Cologne newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger: “The lad ( suffers the fate of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Turkish young people in Germany who have totally integrated but who, because they do acknowledge their Turkish roots, are constantly between two fronts.”
Football players in other countries have had similar experiences. In France, Karim Benzema, who has Algerian roots, said sarcastically: “If I score, I’m French. If I miss, I’m Arab.”
Scholars at Tuebingen University recently published a study exploring the question of just how much a national team player with a migrant background identifies with the country he is playing for. It was found that national and ethnic aspects play only a subordinate role in a decision for or against a team. For players, politics and football are two separate worlds, the authors found.
Cihan Sinanoglu, a spokesperson for Turkish people in Germany, said that, despite the justified criticism of and Gündogan, the hysterialaden debate shows “where we momentarily stand in this country”.
The suspicion of inadequate loyalty is hovering above it all and the matter of belonging in Germany can be denied to people “even if you have been born and grown up here”. That, he said, is the real scandal. This, plus the fact that the boundary lines of what can be spoken out loud have been moved further to the right each day. “The right-wing discourse has in the meantime determined the language of the parties and public debate when the issue is about migration and diversity,” Sinanoglu said. – dpa/African News Agency (ANA)
The case of footballer Mesut Özil and questions about his loyalty because of his Turkish roots have triggered a national debate in Germany about how well or poorly the country is doing in the area of multicultural integration, say the writers.