German Football as Proof That Migration Works

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/17/2010 12:08:00 AM
I naturally pull for Asian and African sides during this or any other World Cup given that neither continent has produced a championship squad (yet). All the same, even traditional powerhouses are of interest in that migration has produced a melting pot as of late. Think of the French title-winning 1998 squad or that which made it to the 2006 finals.

To be honest, the 2010 World Cup has produced a number of snoozers. Indeed, it was expected that Germany would send a team others could beat up at long last given its history of consistently performing squads. That Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng took out longtime German captain Michael Ballack during the FA Cup was thought to be the final straw in sealing a grisly fate for Germany right before the World Cup began. However, Ballack's injury is turning out to be something of a blessing in disguise as a new batch of German stars take centre stage.

It has been somewhat unexpected that the team which has produced the best show so far is the German squad populated with players who are relative minnows in the world of football. Mostly competing in the German league, these young guns (Germany has the second youngest side in South Africa) have largely escaped global media attention. With their 4-0 drubbing of Australia, however, they have established Germany yet again as a team to be reckoned with. Same old, same old, I guess. Just as its industrial might is second to none, so is its football player development [!] Much as I am reluctant to admit it since these guys advance far in practically every tournament, the current side's upbeat, attacking brand of football that is still quick to get back on defence is a pleasure to watch.

Up front, Germany features proven veterans Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski--proven players of Polish lineage. However, they have now been joined by young, pacey, and exciting compatriots who are similarly of mixed ancestry. Such parentages have produced competitors who are coming of age in the biggest event the world's most popular sport offers. Suminder Sandhu of Football Fancast explains the newfound diversity in the German squad:
It has been commented that the diminished number of ‘typically German’ players may in part be down to 11 of the 23-man squad not being from German heritage. [Mesut] Ozil’s parents are Turkish. [Marko] Marin is Bosnian by birth and plays alongside Ozil in Werder Bremen’s midfield. And [Sami] Khedira, whose father is Tunisian, was given his World Cup debut to fill the not-so-small shoes of an injured Michael Ballack. It may just be a coincidence but it does go some way in reflecting the German team’s playing style becoming more multi dimensional: these players all add a rounded, less predictable and more attacking dimension to the traditional tenets (power, strength, and efficiency) of German football. Then again, these young players are all German and it is their talents that have been nurtured well – not their nationality.

[German Coach Joachim] Loew’s willingness to assimilate future stars into the present squad is brilliant to see. Six of his players come from the German U21 European title winning team from 2009. The squad has an average age of under 25 and only three players over the age of 30. Podolski (25), Schweinsteiger (25), and captain Lahm (26) are three of the most experienced members in the team and, between them, hold a staggering 213 caps. Don’t let age fool anyone: these guys are still young but by no means inexperienced.
Others of note include Dennis Aogo (of Nigeria ancestry), Serdar Tasci (Turkish), Piotr Trochowski (Polish), Cacau (Brazilian), Jerome Boateng (Ghanian), amd Mario Gomez (Spanish). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, these fine new players are following the way of Klose and Podolski in assimilating traditional German footballing virtues--and more. One always hopes that the performance of the Mannschaft can be a springboard for greater appreciation of minorities in Germany, especially of the Turkish minority which originally came as guest workers but later established themselves there.

Still, European counterexamples abound. Despite featuring a high ratio of players of overseas origin, French footballing success has done little to improve race relations there. Current French President Nicolas Sarkozy isn't particularly known for improving matters, calling rioters in the banlieus "scum" during his days as French interior minister. Meanwhile, he and Chancellor Merkel are keen on limiting Turkey to second-class "privileged partnership" in the EU. I guess this analogy only goes so far. If only German leadership were as diverse as its pride and joy, I think things would be rather different.

PS: Is Arsenal about to throw a couple of million in Ozil's direction to bring his services to the Gunners? It goes without saying that he's one to watch.

18/6 UPDATE: Serbia has just beaten Germany 1-0. Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco went mad with yellow cards, handing 9 of them on often questionable calls. Klose got sent off with two yellow cards on very soft bookings and that was that. Ah well, you can't win them all, eh?

27/6 UPDATE: See my new entry on why England was destined to lose to Germany in their second round encounter.

5/7 UPDATE: Same theme from the German minister of sport.