Friday 25 June 2010

Do this lot really count as German, asks the Mail

Next Left has followed in detail Paul Dacre's apparent ambivalence about whether the British-born children and grandchildren of immigrants should count as British.

Today, the Daily Mail looks at how that argument has been lost in Germany too, since the 1999 citizenship reforms.

Despite the Are you Poland - or Turkey, Ghana, Bosnia and Brazil - in disguise? headline on its graphic, the Mail's report suggests that the story of Germany's "new citizens" is in large part a positive story about integration.

Under strict citizenship laws dating back to 1913 and the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, only children born in Germany to parents who were both Germans themselves could be considered German

At the time Germany was in a frenzy of nationalism as it armed in preparation for the First World War.

They were not repealed until 1999 as Germany - mindful of having the most dramatically declining birthrate in the world - finally made it easier to become a citizen of the Fatherland.

The new-look German side is collectively known as 'Generation M' for 'multi-cultural'.

Observers say it the change has led to an influx of exciting new players for the German team.

By contrast, the England side has been regularly benefiting from players of immigrant backgrounds since the 1970s, and eight of the current squad are black or mixed-race.

(So the Mail - which was itself very pro-Dreadnought at the time - sounds glad to see the end of the legacy of that "frenzy of nationalism" under the Kaiser. Which is not, by the way, a Franz Beckenbauer reference for once!).

After all, Mesut Ozil is usually seen as the face of what Germans call the "multi-culti" team, being of Turkish ethnic origin. His grandparents were immigrants, while both he and his parents were German-born.

So called "third-generation immigrants" are not, in fact, immigrants at all - a point we were able to find consensus with the Daily Mail on. Many of this German team have come up through German youth football and the under-21 national side.

The Mail would not of course countenance the weakening of the England squad either.

Happily, we all on the same side as Mr Dacre this time.

PS: Those who do worry about even high-skilled immigration and emigration may be pleased to see that, with Italy out, Germany and England are the only two teams remaining where all of their players play football in their home domestic league - the Bundesliga and the Premiership respectively.


The Guardian recently looked at how the German Football Association focused on the challenge of integration, in terms of securing players eligible to play for Germany and other countries, through parentage or grandparents.

The German government oversaw a liberalisation of its eligibility laws in 1999, which made it easier for foreigners and the children of immigrants to gain citizenship. The stand-out case in Löw's squad is the striker Cacau, who came on as a substitute against Australia to score the fourth goal. The 29-year-old was born and raised in Brazil and came to Germany, initially, to play lower-league football. But as he has worked his way to the top, so he has passed the requisite tests to become a German national. One of his examination questions concerned the names of former German chancellors; Cacau has consequently earned the nickname of "Helmut" from his team‑mates.

The challenge that faced the German Football Association (DFB), though, was to make sure the likes of Khedira, Ozil and Boateng did not declare for the other countries for which that they were eligible. Boateng's brother, Kevin-Prince, the Portsmouth forward, has pledged himself to Ghana – in a quirk of fate, Germany face Ghana in the final group game, pitting the brothers against one and other.

Driven perhaps by their lack of young talent, the DFB made a conscious effort to court and groom players from the immigrant community, even employing a dedicated integration officer. They can now enjoy the fruits of those labours.

"We are aware that it's something new to have German national players with Turkish, Ghanaian, Nigerian or Tunisian roots but for our generation, it's very normal," said Khedira, who is the DFB's poster boy for the liberation generation. "We have some players called Khedira and some called Müller. We don't know any differently."

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