Ger­man foul on in­te­gra­tion?

Özil, son of Turks, is be­ing scape­goated for coun­try’s World Cup exit, write Ge­org Is­mar and Sophia Weimer

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

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)

PIC­TURE: REUTERS/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.

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