Should these footballers represent Germany?

The meeting between German national football team players Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan and the Turkish president continues to cause a stir in Germany. Photographs of the two presenting Erdoğan with jerseys were interpreted as a show of electoral campaign support for the AKP leader. For commentators the episode says much about the integration debate in Germany.

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Magyar Demokrata (HU) /

Turks at heart

Third-generation Turkish Germans remain Turks at heart, the conservative magazine Demokrata believes:

“If things develop such that Germany's inhabitants have to decide between Germany and Turkey, between German and Turkish culture, which would Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan choose? And how would the many nameless decide? The second- and third-generation immigrants of whom their new homeland isn't proud, whom Germans don't even notice except when they're buying a kebab? How would they decide if they realised that they are now the majority and history has taken the direction they wanted it to? And does Germany even have the courage to ask this question?”

De Tijd (BE) /

Footballers are not responsible for integration

The chief economist of the Dutch bank ING in Germany, Carsten Brzeski, finds the whole controversy unreasonable in a column for De Tijd:

“Just four years ago the Özils, Boatengs and Khediras were being held up as shining examples of successful integration in Germany. However, the problem is not integration but that footballers (and other TV stars) are supposed to always be social role models. World Cup players have been caught driving without a licence or peeing in a hotel lobby in the last few years. With this behaviour they may not be a reflection of society, but they are certainly not role models either. They are footballers who are good at one thing above all else: playing football. Matters of integration, values and norms or German identity must be left to the politicians and be clarified in a social debate.”

T24 (TR) /

Erdoğan driving the West crazy

The fierce reactions to the photo reflect the West's sensitivity on the subject of Erdoğan, website T24 explains:

“In Turkey, basic rights and freedoms, the fundamental principles of democracy and the separation of powers, and so on and so forth have been suspended in recent years. ... Germany and pretty much the entire West blame Erdoğan for this. In the West, whenever the topic is Turkey and Erdoğan a tiny spark is enough to ignite a major controversy. After all, it's just a photo. But a simple photo is enough to cause a huge upset. This is the sad state in which Turkey finds itself right now.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

National team players must be loyal

Anyone who wants to play football for Germany should be more loyal than Özil and Gündoğan have been, writes the Berliner Zeitung:

“No, we don't need passionate patriots on our national team. Nor should Özil and Gündoğan be used to fuel the growing nationalism in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. ... But we can expect them to show a certain attachment to the country they are playing for, whose jersey they wear and whose anthem they (do not) sing. A national team is not a club, it is more than that. Incidentally, the German national anthem talks of 'law and freedom'; neither exist on the Bosphorus right now. If the two chastised footballers don't feel this sense of attachment and Turkey is their real love, they shouldn't play for Germany.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Not the only ones paying court to Erdoğan

The criticism of Özil and Gündoğan is hypocritical, Die Presse argues:

“It was not very clever of Özil and Gündoğan to allow Erdoğan to use them for his election campaign. ... Under his rule countless journalists, opposition politicians and other people he didn't like have been arrested on flimsy pretexts. Turkey is moving further and further from democratic standards and the rule of law. Nonetheless there is something very hypocritical about the criticism of Özil and Gündoğan that has flared up in Germany. The two footballers are being raked over the coals for having paid court to 'a despot'. Yet until recently the army of this same despot was receiving weapons and materials from German arms manufacturers. And political negotiations are taking place with this despot.”