When Nationalists Don’t Like the National Team

In my adopted German home and across Europe, xenophobia and football excellence are running up against each other.


Comments: 89

  1. Bit over the top - the 2010 team was almost exactly half 'foreign'.
    The reaction of the casual German fan may be changing but the composition of the team has not for a decade or more.

  2. By “foreign” you mean nonwhite, right? I’m pretty sure all of those “foreigners” were born and raised in Germany.

  3. As a dual citizen of both Germany and the U.S. I have mixed feelings about this article. The AfD and their nationalist sentiments are disgusting. However, many soccer teams playing in the Bundesliga and their fans have embraced diversity. I would be careful to make generalizations about Germans and diversity. Secondly, here in the U.S. teams may be diverse, however, the ongoing controversy about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem shows that we are NOT a post-racial society. Let's be clear, protesting police violence against black men is a legitimate concern. I realize that the author is from GB and I also realize that Germany has issues but so does every Western society including the U.S., France, Italy, GB.

  4. The author is from Germany.

  5. When does one become fully “German”? Second generation? Third? Or, perhaps, if one’s forebears aren’t European, never? I’m second-generation Polish-American — if my family had emigrated to Germany and not the United States, would I be considered “German” equal to how I am considered “American” here in the States?

  6. From personal experience I can tell you that if you spoke unaccented German in West Germany in the 1970-ties, at least in the part where I lived you would be considered as belonging to them, if you were a white boy from southeastern Europe.

    And I was not even born there. And I lived surrounded by normal people.

    On the other hand, if nazis are asked, you would not be German even if your family lived there for 10+ generations and you earned the iron cross for bravery on the eastern front, if you were Jewish.

    So, it is all relative.

  7. There are actually quite a few Germans with Polish surnames (see Dirk Nowitzki). Hardly surprising since they're neighboring countries sharing a border which has moved around frequently over the centuries.

    The answer is time. In 100 years, will anybody care that a German guy has a Turkish/African/whatever name? I doubt it.

  8. Bottom line: if you’re not white, you’ll never be viewed as a German.
    Same applies in other European countries btw.
    In America you can just blend in with the rest of the nonwhite US population.

  9. Nice one. Xenophobes, racists, and opponents of immigration are not big on logic. I suppose they think that if people of color are excluded from, say, the German and English (that's England and not Britain or UK, mate) teams, more jobs will go to the white guys. As someone growing up in Italy in the 1950s, I recall the contortions of Italians trying to show that good players from Brazil and Argentina had an Italian grandparent so they would actually be Italian. Often, the documentation was dodgy. The beautiful game is as susceptible to tribalist nonsense as other institutions. There are times when everyone would like to pass for Icelandic.

  10. Germany isn't France where 80% or so if "foreign". Only Griezman and Giroud are left.

    Who's team is it, again?

  11. Giroud, Griezmann, Hernandez, Lloris, Pavard, Thauvin, and Varane are white; is that what you meant by "left"? For your information, Areola, Dembelé, Fekir, Kanté, Kimpembe, Lemar, Matuidi, Mbappé, Mendy, Nzonzi, Pogba, Rami, Sidibé, and Tolisso, all of whom are of partial or full African descent, were BORN IN FRANCE. They are French. Are you still claiming they are "foreign"? If so, you are being openly racist.

  12. The basis of “foreign” is purely racial. They don’t even try to conceal it anymore.
    Nobody thought that Nicolas Sarkozy was a foreigner and he was elected President of France despite being the son of Hungarian immigrants. He was white, thus his Frenchness was never in doubt. If his parents were from Senegal or Algeria, it would’ve been a VERY different proposition.

  13. The French players of African descent were born in France, so they are French!

    "Who's (sic) team is it?" It's France's team!
    (The term is "whose".)

    Those players you're calling foreign are just as much a part of France as anybody else!

    (This comment was published yesterday but disappeared so I am reposting it.)

  14. Yes, there are people with far-right beliefs in Germany. But you fail to mention the problems that normal people have with the current national team. Several players with a foreign background, some born outside of Germany, some whose grandparents came to Germany, don't sing the national anthem. It's not to protest police violence or anything. That leaves some people wondering how German those guys really feel. But ok, it's Germany, we have a complicated relationship with our national anthem.
    A bigger problem is a recent one. Two German players with Turkish roots (born in Germany) took a photo with Erdogan and gave him their signed jerseys. One even wrote: "For my revered president". This was after several German-Turkish journalists were imprisoned in Turkey and those two players don't seem to think there's anything wrong with it.

  15. Johanna, would you be just as disturbed if two German players with German roots were supporters of the racist, xenophobic, ethnophobic Alternative for Germany?

    It's unfortunate that those players like Erdogan, he horrifies me. But it doesn't mean they should be kicked off the team.

    And most football players (and athletes) of any ethnicity don't know the words to their national anthems. Honestly, who really cares?

  16. How many players on the German team were born abroad? ZERO!
    Yet, you still view them as “foreigners” because they’re not white.

  17. So Gundogan and Ozil can't be both German and Turkish, and love both countries? They showed poor judgment in meeting Erdogan (whom I despise) but that hardly makes it a "big[ger] problem."

    Besides that, it is quite possible that they felt pressure to accept if Erdogan asked to meet with them or did not realize their actions would come across as a political endorsement of Erdogan. Alternatively, they may genuinely like the guy - I don't know - but as long as they remain professional on the field, what does it matter what they do or think off the field?

    What does it matter whether they or other players sing the national anthem or not? Do you think singing the anthem (and perhaps saluting) are the only ways to show patriotism?

  18. The capitalists use imported labor to break the power of the workers and their unions. Immigrants can't seem to acknowledge that while they do have better lives in the West those better lives have come at the expense of the working-poor and the working-classes in Western countries. Naturally, those whose economic prospects have suffered thanks to open-borders policies will resent the newcomers.

    The middle-classes benefit from immigration because they work at civil service jobs who manage the social programs that seek to help those in poverty, or because they work at the corporations who need an ever expanding consumer class to remain profitable, and because pressure on the working-classes keeps their position secure. The upper-classes reap immense windfalls from the boon to profits the lower labor costs and expanded domestic markets created by immigration, and so many of them are all for it, too. Some of the upper-class, however, oppose paying additional tax to fund the social programs that are supposed to alleviate the poverty of not only the newcomers, but the poverty of those workers who have fallen into the ranks of the lumpen thanks to the effects the newcomers have on their wages.

    "Xenophobia" is not the sources of the backlash. It is a primarily economic phenomenon.

  19. They objectively have not expensed the working class pretty much whenever it has been studied. Despite that, it is a very common refrain to say immigrants are hurting the working class and a centuries-old tactic to justify racist thinking as economic anxiety. This is america. Now it's Europe too.

  20. If you are talking about the US, your argument assumes that immigrants are not part of unions or part of the working-class, which is false.

    If you look at the beginnings of unions in the US, a massive amount of their members and their leaders were either immigrants or children of immigrants.

    And if you look at the "working-class" today, it is majority immigrants, people of color, and women! Everybody has a laser beam focus on the "white working-class" as if they represent the entire working-class. It is bizarre and actually hurts us because it divides us. If you are concerned about the power of capitalists, a united working and middle class has the best chance of fighting for a better life.

    If you are talking about the effect undocumented immigrants have on the wages of the working class, then it is true that they can depress wages because they are easy to exploit. The easy (and just) solutions are to make undocumented immigrants that have been here for decades and who have never committed a violent crime legal, and have a fair and humane immigration system which will not encourage new people to come here illegally.

    If we let undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows they will no longer be as easy to exploit and wages will rise for everyone in the working class. And we also get more tax money of course. The harder you make it to immigrate to the US, the more illegal immigration you get, esp if there aren't enough US citizens willing to do the jobs immigrants do.

  21. Factually incorrect. Surveys and academic studies of Trump voters (and supporters of anti-immigrationist policies) show that only a third of these people are poor and working class. Two thirds of Republicans backing Trump and his anti-immigration policies earn more than the average median national income, and half of those are in the top 20%.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/05/its-time-t...

    Xenophobic myths like immigrants depress wages of working class Americans are provably wrong: despite the fact that unemployment is historically low, corporate tax burdens are historically low, and the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in the US is at a 15-year low, working class wages are still appreciating at the same average rate they have since the Reagan presidency.

    Over the past ten years, the Wall Street Journal, Stanford School of Business, Bloomberg News, and many, many other sources have surveyed motivations for anti-immigrant sentiments and report that the role of economics is secondary. Primary are "cultural identity," "national identity," and other sociopsychological explanations. In other words, xenophobia *is* the source of the backlash. Economic insecurity is a post-hoc explanation larded onto the arguments by xenophobes to make their bias more palatable.

  22. These are not national teams except in name. I don't even know if all the players speak German. Frankly, cheering or supporting a national team makes no sense to me. With modern transportation and communication and population pressure the national state is obsolete. These "national" teams are professional teams essentially hiring the best football talent in the world just like the NFL. I have lived in Germany for decades and I can say that Germany is becoming a lot like the mixing pot of the USA. English is more than adequate for everything in Germany. The German language is an anachronism and the people that speak it will be but a memory in 100 years as other languages spoken by the dominant population groups, to include English, take over.

  23. So, you've decided our language is an anachronism just because you've lived in hipster capital Berlin where of course Americans who are too lazy to learn foreign languages can get along nicely with English alone? Ever been to the rural South? No? This mindset is exactly what has made Americans unpopular. And I'm not saying, with me. - You got one thing right: Germany is becoming an immigrant nation, too. Like the US. Many people over here have great difficulty in accepting this but it's the truth. Therefore, the national team can actually be a great integrating power in these difficult times of migration and refugee crisis. The modern, colorful national team consisting of young Germans who are descendants of immigrants as well as native Germans. The part of the German society who is calling out the players of Turkish or African heritage as NOT GERMAN ENOUGH will be the first to cheer whenever a goal is scored, just like the article correctly describes. These people need to learn a lesson: Globalization is real, but it doesn't mean the end of individuality or of the love for your home country. Are you ready to dispense of the US national teams as well? I see the Americans cheering fanatically 'USA, USA, USA!' at every major sports event. OK, let's call it quits and donate all the money these numbing games generate to charity. No more Michael Phelps, no more Manuel Neuer. What do you say?

  24. Just because players have a different skin color doesn't mean their not German. All of them have been growing up here and speak perfect German. They're also all German citizens, as far as I know.
    This is different in Bundesliga clubs, where there are actual foreign players. Still, most of them learn some German, because it's the way to communicate here. It wouldn't be different if a German player goes to another country: he would learn their language.

  25. Wow.

    Just "a little" over the top, don't you think?

  26. One thing I like about the German team is the players are actually of German heritage. When you look at France nearly all the players appear to be from some colony or another France conquered way back in the day.

    It's like having LeBron playing for the Cavs. It's nice when people from their hometown are on the team.

  27. Why is it that LeBron clearly looks American to you, while a French player of color doesn't "look French?" Just like the USA, France has many citizens whose French roots stretch back hundreds of years, appearances notwithstanding.

  28. Who cares about "heritage"? I'm a dual Swedish-American citizen, spent over half my life in Sweden, and couldn't have cared less if the entire Swedish national team had been Swedes of African and Middle Eastern descent! I just want to see Sweden play good football! Swedes come in all colors these days, sure makes Sweden more fun!

  29. Seems you haven't read the article. That's the point. You can be a modern German when you're NOT of German heritage. We have two players of Turkish descent who obviously have problems with their dual identity (strong family ties to Erdogan's Turkey, I presume). Both were born and raised in Germany, as were Sami Khedira (Tunisian father, German mother), Antonio Rüdiger (mother from Sierra-Leone, father German) and, of course, our deputy captain Jerome Boateng (we call him 'the neighbor', with affection, thank you, Gauland), whose father is Ghanaian. Of these five, to my knowledge, only Khedira is a dual passport holder, but his loyalty to Germany is beyond question. Nation and ethnicity are two things.

  30. This is the way it is in any country with significant immigration, recent or otherwise.
    It is certainly the way it is in Western Europe.
    It is certainly the way it is, and becoming more so, in the US, with a significant number of Hispanic players.
    It is much less so in countries with few immigrants, such as most countries in South America. Although South America had a huge number of immigrants in the past, after WW2, and is seeing a bit of an upsurge now.
    It is also not the story in Eastern Europe, where nationalist tendencies run strong.

  31. I strongly disagree. Never saw this kind of racism in basketball, baseball, football or hockey.

    And Germany or France's immigrations is a joke compared to the immigration of the US. US is a country of immigration. Germany is not.

  32. Mr. Okwonga,

    Thanks again for this piece. I am a fan of the German National Team and am saddened to hear about some sentiments when it comes to the percentage (of skin color) of who should be in it as I believe that sports is one of the things that Germany can actually face the word without any baggage of its past.

    As a follower of Bundisliga, I am amazed by Boating’s skill and sportsmanship. Can’t wait to see him on the pitch this Copa. He certainly belongs with the rest of the team in what The Guardian has termed as an “embarrassment of riches.”

    So erm, no pressure, Mr. Löw. Haha.

    Also looking forward to your column about the Unicorns.

  33. Having played in Germany soccer while growing up there I am struck each time how little has changed in the last decades in terms of how Germany plays, and how the players live by the same spirit irrespective of their origin or skin color.

    Boateng may be black, but he plays like a German, and he is a pleasure to watch.

    Their play is mostly fair, based on endurance and physical strength, respect for the opponent, and they do not give up ever until the last second of the game. They run until their last atoms of energy are spent, and I do not believe they do it for the German nation. They do it for their team and the player next to them who wears the same colored shirt.

  34. Great to know that little has changed.

    My first exposure to the German National Team was an in depth interview with Beckenbauer as head of the team in the German magazine Scala (my father was a subscriber) and two things stuck from the interview:

    1-everyone has a burning desire to win
    2-there are so superstars in the team (to mean everyone is expected to put out the same amount of effort and commitment)

    I think these two points make the German team a league apart from the rest of the competing teams.

    On a separate but equally important note, I watched the lottery of the opening matches on TV and saw how among the many coaches, managers, assistants, and what have you
    present in the event, only Mr. Löw has a pen and paper on hand taking notes — talk about effort and commitment.

    Personally, my heart is with Spain (and Iceland for the Q finals at the most) but my head is telling me Germany will bring home the Copa once again.

    Whatever the outcome, I have high regards for Germany.

  35. This is a very nice piece, it puts many things into recent historical context. Thanks for your voice Mr. Okwonga, and thanks to the NYT for bringing such excellent content from talented writers around the world.

  36. Mr. Okwonga makes an excellent point about how a particular kind of racist nationalism clashes with support for a national team comprising people of diverse races and ethnicities. German fans will have to decide whether they want an ethnically pure team (which, in any case, is problematic as "Germany," understood in historical and political terms, has long comprised people from across Europe), or one that wins, whatever the color of its players. The same is true for England, France, and other longstanding multicultural societies. (There were black people in Europe when Shakespeare was writing *Othello*; there have been blacks and Arabs in France for over 1000 years; Spain and Portugal were under the control of the Moors before 1492, etc.) Colonialism's, imperialism's and globalism's effects have further broken down nationalism's walls, so while it may displease some in AfD that Boateng is one of Germany's stars, they'll have to get used to it. We're not going back to 1933-1945, not if most of us can help it.

  37. It's simple and nothing to do with diversity: if a player does not know or feel inclined to singe the national anthem they do not belong on the national team.

  38. Seriously? Athletic ability or the desire to represent one's country mean nothing if one doesn't sing the national anthem? Does that extend to other endeavors or is it limited to sports? If I served in the military but have never sang the national anthem (both true), by your definition, I wouldn't belong on the national team (even assuming I was young and had athletic ability)? Wow. Just wow.

  39. This subject is a great start to your blog Musa, and the recent racial makeup of the French National football team also deserves mention. As a health worker living in Zambia during the Euro 2004 contest I noticed the Zambians were strongly in support of the French team, even though Zambia was a former UK colony, many had relatives in Britain and essentially none had any ties to France of even spoke the language. When asked why, they explained that what the French team did have were many great players of obvious African ancestry (Gallas, Makalele, Viera, Thuram, Thierry Henry, etc.). Even the captain was Marcel Desailly of Ghanaian ancestry! They said it was really like an African All-Star team, playing in the national uniform of France. All the while the anti-immigrant National Front Party increased vote totals in successive elections nationwide.

  40. When France won the 1998 World Cup with a team full of black/Maghreb players, it was heralded as a victory of French diversity. But the celebration was tempered by Jean-Marie Le Pen (the National Front leader) declaring that there was nothing to celebrate because the team wasn’t really French anyway.
    His sentiments seemed shocking at the time but not anymore in retrospect: He just said out loud what many people felt.

  41. The day that we will all be simply considered human beings, despite the nation we play for, support or live in, will truly be a sunny day in the world.

    I wish the German team and all others, diverse or not, well in the tournament.

  42. When you blame players for not singing the national anthem or not being from the country they represent, you blame the wrong person. That person is just a product of capitalism. It pays to win. And football is money.
    If you argue nationalism is about the country that you are from then blame a person who was born in a nation for not being the same race as the indigenous. You claim that nationality is ethnic and blame a person for something they cannot change and had no choice over.
    As nationals those of other ethnicities seem to be blamed for issues that are not up to them to change, product of history that we weren't around to create and treated as though we're no-one's to claim.
    It's really depressing to be honest.

  43. Since the flow of talent is decidedly one way only, seems like the author's approach dooms teams like Ghana who need all the help they can get. Let me know when some uber-talented player from Europe dons the uniform of an African country, and not because they weren't good enough to make a squad that's one of the favorites.
    Careful what you wish for. Conceivably you could have a team with a majority of players with recent African roots winning the whole thing while their countries of origin either fail to qualify in the first place, or fail to advance. Wait until China starts playing games (pun intended) with players that are half-Chinese and half-African as they invest billions and billions into African infrastructure.

  44. What you call “African infrastructure “ is in fact Chinese infrastructure and it will be useless to Africans without the Chinese.

  45. Racists can enjoy Black athletes without contradiction. They perceive us as intellectually inferior. But many bigots believe that people of African descent are physically superior. I mean, that's the whole logic behind enslavement. They love to watch us play ball, run fast, kick, jump, etc. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the nazi's golden moment, the German people loved Jesse Owens. They considered him a beautiful specimen. Hitler shook his hand. Yet, they still murdered millions of Jews and forcibly sterilized or murdered thousands of Black and biracial Germans.

  46. Athletes and entertainers are easy to embrace. They’re less threatening to the status quo than a president or CEO.
    Not all ceilings are of the same material. Some are made of glass but others are made of concrete.

  47. While this article provides a lot of words about the "racist" and "far-right" soccer fans (note how quickly and widely they are grouped) in the 3rd paragraph's "others, particularly those who support" (< some? all? what kind of inclusive set? best left implied!) and Boateng, it is curiously silent on the roiling controversy of the three German players (of Turkish parental background, etc) who posed with the Turkish soon-to-be-dictator-for-life Erdogan in London with captions like "My revered president" ... http://www.espn.com/soccer/germany/story/3523210/mesut-ozil-ilkay-gundog...

  48. Actually, not that it matters much, but one of those three players - Cenk Tosun - is not on the German national team. Rather, he is a member of the Turkish national team.

  49. Germany has taken more than 1.5 million foreign refugees in.
    Cry me a river. What else do you want them to do. A very very very small percentage will not accept foreigners anyway. Just like a small percentage of muslims will be extremist and we can't blame all muslims for terrorism.

  50. Racism in football mirrors racism in society, so it is to be expected. The silver lining is that incidents of racism in football are highlighted in many positive ways, not only by identifying racist hooligans through CCTV but by instantly punishing the clubs of racist fans with huge fines.

    In the end, racists in football gain the opprobrium of the vast majority of the populace: What could be more innocent and endearing than the sight of people of many races, colours and communities kicking a round ball like children in a playground?

  51. I'm seeing some pretty scary xenophobic and racist comments here.
    I spent over half my life in Europe (dual Swedish-American citizen) and I loved (and love) seeing all the multi-colored, multi-ethnic national teams where many of the best footballers were and are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants from both sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, Turkey, Bosnia etc.
    I couldn't care less if the entire Swedish national team were of foreign descent. They're Swedes too! I just want to see good football!

  52. Can't wait to hear more about the "Unicorns"!

  53. Blame the rising xenophobia on the US grifter, Trump. He has helped set the tone for the Europeans about immigrants.

  54. And Trump is married to an immigrant, his first wife was an immigrant, his mother was an immigrant, and his grandparents were immigrants. I mean, it's just absurd!

  55. The 7 on the German team have Parents of Foreign Heritage.
    Concluding the 7 were born in Germany.
    They are German.

  56. If they’re not white, they’re not viewed or treated as German... Second or third generation, it doesn’t matter.
    The same applies all over Europe btw.

  57. I have been a football supporter for most of my life. However, this sport in particular brings out the worst at most primitive in people, which I have never seen in other sports.

    It is the sport that fills stadiums with tens of thousands of people whose purpose is to create an "us versus them" feel they need too boost their lack of identity.

    I am pondering on and off if I should walk away from football altogether. Alas, the idiots always win.

  58. as per, the NYT doesn't seek real expertise for its world cup section and so turns the tournament into one big excuse for projecting political dogma and race politics. somehow Alternative fur Deutschland and the Windrush scandal are mightily relevant. no normal person in Germany and Britain thinks about this link. football fans love their teams and players no matter what their origin or background is. cringe journalism

  59. While it is true that in Germany (where I live) there is a big discussion going on about what the german identity is - frankly this should not come as a surprise due to recent and ongoing events involving (illegal) immigration - I would have hoped for more examples or data on the supposed xenophobia you are claiming to see. One person doing a nazi salute and one of the most far-right people in german politics as your only two data points honestly don't convince me of a rise in xenophobia. There might be. There also might have been a relatively small group of people always having had xenophobia that are only showing it just now. But in my everyday experience on the streets in Germany most people aren't xenophobic or racist or whatever. Some are just worried that our country can't handle the masses, the least of them project this onto individuals.
    My point is: It always sounds so convincing to make these horrible claims about countries to people who aren't living there. But it paints a strange picture I don't feel to be representative of reality overall.

  60. To the author: I am sorry you were shown the nazi salute. Please do not let this affect your opinion of the Germans, who I recall as predominantly liberal, open, accepting and tolerant, when I grew up there in the 70-ties and 80-ties.

    Whenever you encounter something like that, recall Article 1 of their constitution: "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt."

    As long as this article is unchanged and the country lives by its spirit, you are perfectly safe there.

    And crazies you can find everywhere.

  61. Just like USA, except maybe not so bad, where the President wants non-white players that form the backbone of most teams kicked out.

  62. If Alexander Gauland's neighbors are fine living next to him, I don't see why they wouldn't be OK to live with J. Baoteng.

  63. Erm, that’s quite a stretch to link Windrush with the England team, and this is the first time I’ve seen that made. Being ‘of Caribbean descent’ does not automatically make you one of the Windrush families. But I get the wider point - personally from what I see I think football in the UK does wonders at knocking down barriers, and what very few incidents that occur are always rightly stamped on by police or the clubs themselves. When you’re as regularly bad as the England team are then the usual xenophobic clowns can’t afford to be too picky.

  64. Good article. Everyone fears a diverse world. It's ironic since places like Africa were heavily colonized by these nations, and then, as you know it was not a problem. I'm sure that I do not have to state the the levels of control that France, Germany, and England instituted over multiple African countries. Diversity is a funny thing. It's okay to have the ethnic restaurant where everyone raves about the food, and it might be okay to be a doctor or just don't own a hospital or a firm, and for God's sake, don't play for the national team! I can't imagine what will happen if Germany or maybe Britain will get their own Obama. That poor soul will endure hatred, a 100 times worse that Obama gets now.

  65. Well, Mike, Mayor Khan in London is a Muslim of Pakistani descent. Yes, I'm sure, the right wingers in Britain give him a hard time. But he got elected and is doing a heck of a job. He's respected across borders. Just like Obama. We're no better, but certainly also not worse...

  66. To every soccer fan in the world who has a problem with the ethnicity of their national teams' players, I have only this to say:

    Unless you can play as good as these men, and are as willing take to that field and risk bodily injury to win for your country's honor, then you have no business being in that stadium for any reason other than drinking your beer and cheering them on.

  67. We have something similar here, with Trump playing the race card against black NFL players—indeed the Super Bowl champions. And he is picking the fight, as the Eagle players made no national anthem demonstrations.

  68. What does it mean to be German these days? The United States is an immigrant nation in part because it is literally enormous and can accommodate large swaths of foreign born people. Germany is a little bigger than the US state of Wisconsin. In fact, you can fit nearly 2 Germanies inside the US state of Texas alone (technically 1.95 based on land area). Everyone likes the idea of a melting pot and it is obvious that diversity has many benefits. But, when you have so many immigrants that it erodes the identity and culture of a nation you can understand why a lot of people would get upset about this.

    This essay is a call to repress our tribal instincts, a laudable cause, but the world cup is a tribal competition at its core. Flip this around, how would it look if the Japanese team had a bunch of white guys playing for it? Or if the Ghanan team had a bunch of Germans playing for it? Yes, it'd be weird. But, maybe that is how we get to a post-tribal world. Which seems inevitable to me.

  69. The US is an immigrant nation because European settlers colonized it and, through treaties and war, seized or stole the territory from the indigenous were here. The white people were immigrants from the beginning. That is why the US is an immigrant nation. But Germany also has had immigrants for centuries, among them Jewish people from the East, and Roma from neighboring regions. Germans today are descended from what are now the many German regions--which are not the same, since Bavaria and Pomerania, or Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein, two give two different examples, are quite distinct in religion, culture, etc.--as well as Danes, Alsatians, Dutch, Huguenots, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenians, Croatians, the Baltic countries, southern Europe, and so on. The descendants of many thousands of ethnic Germans from what is now Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union also live in Germany. In the last century, Germany also received millions of Turks who provided Germany with a needed workforce; their descendants are now Germans as well, as are people from the Middle East, Africa, East and South Asia, etc. And one could go on and on. Also, Germany has more than 82 million people; it is hardly in danger of absorbing so many immigrants that its identity would be eroded. That is not going to happen; Austria, maybe. Germany, not a chance.

  70. As a German of colour - as well as a scholar on European literature - that question is at the core of my existence. Am I, an academic who owns one of Germany's largest private libraries on Goethe and has forgotten more about German culture than 95% of my fellow Germans will ever know, less of a German than some mulleted Karl-Otto who thinks "German culture" begins and ends with oompah music, just because I am not white?

    What I find surprising is that the most rabid ethno-nationalists are also those who have the least confidence in the resilience of "their" culture: to hear white nationalists talk, a civilisation which not only brought forth some of the greatest thinkers, writers, and inventors in history, but also survived the Thirty Years War, crushing defeats in both world wars, and 45 years of division would be bowled over by a few hundred thousand immigrants - a notion as racist as it is risible.

    There is literally nothing more "tribal" than being selected among the best of the best at your nation's favourite sport, and represent that nation at an event watched by the entire world. It is tribal to cheer for Germany, whether their uniforms say "Özil" or "Müller".

    Diversity will make Germany stronger and better, and anyone who would get upset about this is a bigoted coward.

  71. I see nothing in the article to get so exercised about. Just as happened at the universities of Alabama and Mississippi, when it became clear that the presence of blacks was crucial for their teams to win, prejudice moved over and was replace by a greater impulse: state-wide Jingoism.

  72. Our own xenophobe-in-chief has harvested a commanding share of the racist bile at large in our country to win a national election. Of course the fool imagines himself an authority on sports, yet would be hard pressed to explain how the World Cup works or why it's importance goes far beyond athletic achievement. Since the U.S. did not make the cut (on merit) this cycle, to the degree he is aware of that fact (unlikely), he could be imagining that Team America should be a contender. We are indeed a contender alright, but what we are contending for is not worth discarding what we stand for.

  73. The Germans are thrilled and emboldened by only one fact in the WC. They don't have to worry about or play Italia!!!!

  74. Well, truthfully, it's weird that Cameron Carter-Vickers plays for the USMNT - certainly not because he's black, but because he's English. We've also had a bunch of German guys (e.g., Jermaine Jones) play for us who could barely speak the English language, a Norwegian guy (Mix Diskerud), and an Icelandic guy (Aron Johannsson) who by accident was born in the USA. It's odd. These guys aren't American. I sure would prefer guys who were born or substantially raised in the USA to play on the USMNT. The color of their skin, or the sound of their name, or the birthplace of their parents is immaterial. Maybe the same should apply to Germany and France.

  75. When I was enlisted in the U.S. Army in the 1980s, there were a number of us who were more than happy to serve but who weren't [yet] citizens. If someone is willing to embrace America and be a part of it, who gives a rip where they were born or raised, what color is their skin, or who their parents were?

    The same goes in soccer -> if Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud or any other player born abroad feels enough of a connection to the United States to play on its team and is good enough to make the said team, more power to them. I for one love the fact that we've had players like those guys in the team.

  76. Why is this section of the paper called "Offsides" and not "Offside?" They've already decided to follow the rest of the world by calling the game "football" and not soccer, so why "Offsides?"

  77. Your optimism sounds great, especially when Sports try to unify humanity on our common roots, and an appreciation of the richness contained in our diversity...and the need to feel included. Too bad we have still too much hate and discrimination, all based on ignorance and it's sidekick, bigotry. Yet, we must persevere, and trust we are able to transcend our subconscious prejudices, and help spread tolerance, and justice, by speaking up for those who won'r. And the World Cup may be the 'perfect' vehicle for that.

  78. The day that we will all be simply considered human beings, despite the nation we play for, support or live in, will truly be a sunny day in the world.

    I wish the German team and all others, diverse or not, well in the tournament.

  79. I always root for Germany. I don’t know why, I suppose I just like seeing a good game of football whether it be German, Spanish, Belgian or any of the South America films. The England team are always fairly unexciting and they seem to scrape victories or draws, whereas to see Germany take Brazil apart at the last WC was a wonder.

    One thought occurs - when there are nationality-based arguments here in England over football, it’s always about the state and quality of the England team in comparison to other nations’ teams. With the Premier League being as popular, profitable and as dominating as it is here, and with all the overseas players that are signed-up to English clubs, there is some debate on whether this makes it harder for the FA to nurture ‘home-grown’ talent or if that talent is instead pushed out and relegated to the bench/B-side by expensive big-name transfers from abroad. But there hasn’t been a racial tag glued onto what the definition of ‘home-grown’ is that I’ve ever seen.

  80. My son was born in Germany. In a breach of the new national legislation, he was not offered citizenship, but during the world cup he literally wraps himself in the Germany flag even though we no longer live there. Already in kindergarten he and the other lads in the class who were not ethnically German identified with the great players like them on the Mannschaft. There have also historically been a lot of German-born players on the Turkish team . . .

  81. 18 of Morocco’s 23 players for the World Cup are born and raised in Europe. Most don’t even speak Arabic, yet they don’t have a bond with their European country. It’s an indictment of Europe’s integration as those players are still treated like foreigners in their own countries and have to represent their parents or grandparents’ countries.
    You might be second or third generation European but it doesn’t matter if you’re not white, you’ll still be viewed/treated like an undesirable foreigner... That’s the European mentality.

  82. Germany has taken more than 1.5 million foreign refugees in.
    Cry me a river. What else do you want them to do. A very very very small percentage will not accept foreigners anyway. Just like a small percentage of muslims will be extremist and we can't blame all muslims for terrorism.

  83. Racism in football mirrors racism in society, so it is to be expected. The silver lining is that incidents of racism in football are highlighted in many positive ways, not only by identifying racist hooligans through CCTV but by instantly punishing the clubs of racist fans with huge fines.

    In the end, racists in football gain the opprobrium of the vast majority of the populace: What could be more innocent and endearing than the sight of people of many races, colours and communities kicking a round ball like children in a playground?

  84. Not all Germans are in favor of football: it is considered a proletarian sport, something for "the uneducated masses", the hoi polloi.

    Since primitive politicians are hopping on the football bandwagon for selfish propaganda, even this profession has landed on the negative side.

  85. Football is certainly not considered as a proletarian sport in Germany. You have strong football supporters throughout all kinds of educational backgrounds in society. Football is rather a class uniting phenomenon. I am a professor in Germany and most of my colleagues love football and many even go to matches on a regular bases.

  86. One more reason to prefer baseball or basketball. What this article describes sounds like what Philadelphia's Shibe Park was like in 1947, or what Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke was like before Duke's basketball team was integrated.

  87. The root cause of this problem is the fact that black people are always viewed and treated like foreigners in Europe, even when they’re born and raised there.
    If you’re not white, you’re an undesirable foreigner who should be deported... That’s the enduring mentality all over Europe. It means you might be a legal citizen but you’re still without a country.
    It’s the opposite for black Africans arriving in the US: you’re immediately treated like an African-American as you blend in with the rest of the black population.
    The concept of a black European is still unsettling for most people in Europe. The only ones who are somewhat embraced are a few with exceptional abilities (select soccer stars like Zidane in France and other entertainers).

  88. Perhaps the reason a lot of Germans don't identify with the German soccer team is that at least some of the players don't seem to identify much with Germany. Case in point: recently two players of Turkish-background (Özil and Gundogan) posed for a picture with Turkish president/autocrat Erdogan with the caption "for my honored president". Despite being born in Germany and playing for the German team, Turkey's Erdogan is 'their president'. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44122247).

  89. Mr. Okwonga fails to mention that a major cause of hostility toward the German national team is that two players with Turkish roots publicly expressed loyalty to Turkey and Erdogan.