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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Germans celebrate the diversity of their 'multiculti' World Cup team

Germany's football team is the most ethnically diverse in the country's history

Yagiz Dogan is hankering after a pair of orange and silver trainers similar to those worn by German footballer Mesut Ozil. "I'm saving up for them, after all he's my hero," says the 15-year-old, who lives in a flat in the Berlin district of Neukölln with his Turkish parents and grandparents.

Yagiz has hung a German flag from the window, much to the confusion of his mother. "Of course I want Germany to win the World Cup," he says.

He also thinks it's fine that Ozil, the German-born son of Turkish immigrants, has chosen to play for Germany rather than Turkey.

"What should be strange about that? He was born here, brought up here, he speaks the language, understands the culture – just like me. I can identify with him."

The boy could be speaking for Ozil himself. But what's clear from talking to him is how natural it is for a whole generation of young Germans – known as "Generation M" or "multiculti" – that their national football team comes from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Not only is this German team the youngest it has been since 1934 – half the squad are 24 or under – it is also the most ethnically diverse it has ever been. No fewer than half of the players were either born outside Germany, are the sons of immigrants, or have one non-German parent. And what's more, says national coach Joachim Löw, "they have a strong sense of identification with the eagle on their breasts and with the nation as a whole".
The effect of such a radical transition cannot be overstated in a country that for years did not consider itself a land of immigration, and where foreigners brought in to fill the skills gap were deliberately called "guest workers" on the understanding, or hope, that they would go home.

The change has come about thanks to a 1999 revamp of citizenship laws. Half the current team's players would not have been allowed in just over a decade ago.

Some bloggers on far-right websites railed in anger following Germany's swashbuckling 4-0 defeat of Australia a fortnight ago, insisting that the team was now "no longer German". But the team has won over the hearts of most Germans, who are delighted by the verve and fearlessness the new generation has injected into the game.

Ozil, arguably the star of this current team, who scored the winning goal in Wednesday's match against Ghana, said that he sees his "Turkish side" coming out in his technique and feel for the ball, "and the give-it-your-all attitude to my game is the German part of me".

The Guardian