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Germans hail multicultural WC team
Many feel ethnic diversity of country's players in World Cup has made squad more exciting and dynamic.
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2010 03:02 GMT
Matur says the success of Germany's multicultural team has been 'good for reducing prejudices'

On the small football pitch marked out in a quiet suburb of Berlin, the latest match is under way.

As the boys play and pass, there's running commentary from them, imagining for a moment they are the heroes they've been following in the World Cup.

In years gone by, the boys would have dreamed of being Jurgen Klinsmann, or Lothar Matthaus, or even the "Kaiser" himself, the imperious Franz Beckenbauer. 

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The names are different now. Now they want to be Özil, Caucau, Boateng or Podolski.

For more than 80 years, the rules about who could represent Germany were clear - and strict.

Players had to be German born, of parents born in Germany. 

But that law was scrapped in 1999, laying the foundation for the current squad - dubbed the M generation by the German media, for Multicultural.

Half the current squad were either born outside Germany, are the sons of immigrants, or have one non-German parent.

In a country which has never considered itself a land of immigration - calling foreigners "guest workers" - it's a dramatic transformation.

'Proud minorities' 

The emerging star is Mesut Özil. Born in Germany to Turkish immigrant parents, he opted to play for the land of his birth rather than Turkey.

For Mehmet Matur, his performance and acceptance is a source of pride.

A Turk himself, he's now heavily involved in integration programmes for the German Football Association.

At his sports shop in a Berlin suburb, where many Turks live, he sees the changes.

"You see them flying German flags, which is new," says Matur.

"You have children coming into the store. Six months ago they wanted boots like Christiano Ronaldo. Today it is Özil."

He can't help smiling as he recounts this.

"There are players now like Kedera or Özil. They are idols for the youth and the German majority adores them as heroes," he says.

"It makes the people living here from ethnic minorities proud and they know they can reach the same position.

"That's also good for reducing prejudices. For society it's an opening."

'Pure German'

Some right-wing websites dismiss the "foreign" element in the German team, longing for days when, as they see it, "pure Germans" won the World Cup in 1954, 1974 and again in 1990.

 Özil, left, opted to play for Germany, where he was born, rather than Turkey [GALLO/GETTY]

But this is a minority view. The public squares around Germany have been packed as people follow the nation's advance through the tournament in South Africa on big screens.

Peter Walschburger, a psychologist from Berlin's Free Univeristy, has studied the link between football and society. 

"We have integration difficulties that are made of prejudices concerning foreign cultures," he says. 

"That's because there is no concrete emotional experience.

"Football is emotional, and now half of our national team is foreign looking, with foreign names, cultures and religions. And they all play together great.

"So people who are watching it lose their fear. It's a social example for unity in diversity." 

But for most of the fans, as they watch, it's about winning.

The influx from other cultures has made this German side much more exciting and dynamic.

And they hope they are about to write a new chapter in Germany's sporting history.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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