Rise of the Gastarbeiter

How once-immigrants in Germany are now having a huge impact on the football league and the national team.

    Ozil (L) and Khedira have their roots in Turkey and Tunisia [AFP]
    Ozil (L) and Khedira have their roots in Turkey and Tunisia [AFP]

    The Turkish village of Hisiroglu, the Tunisian seaside resort of Hammamet and the Macedonian city of Gostivar may appear to be totally unrelated but they share a special football connection - Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph.

    Sami Khedira’s father has roots in Hammamet. Gostivar is where Shkodran Mustafi’s family originates from and Hisiroglu is home to relatives of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal star even has a street named after him in the nearby town of Devrek.

    The new millennium marked the start of a footballing revolution for Die Nationalmannschaft (the national team) as the German Football Association (DFB) went back to the drawing board following a disastrous Euro 2000 campaign. The focus was on improving the quality of players being produced in Germany.

    Fast forward to present time and Germany boasts 366 DFB training centres, 52 centres of excellence and 30 elite footballing schools working towards developing the next Ozils, Mullers and Gotzes. There were 12 Germany- born footballers in other national squads Brazil 2014 – only France had more with 18. The main winner of the German football boom – other than Germany, of course – has without a doubt been Turkey.


    Ozil - one of the most recognisable names in modern German football - happens to be of Turkish origin but he’s not alone. He’s part of the large – estimates vary from 2.5 to 3.5 million - Turkish community that form the largest ethnic minority in Germany. Many are descendants of the guest workers who arrived when large-scale migration of Turkish citizens to West Germany was encouraged during the 1960s and 1970s.

    Turkey reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup with the likes of Ilhan Mansiz, Yildiray Basturk and Umit Davala, who were all German-born.

    According to German citizenship laws, a child born to Turkish parents in Germany was still considered a Turkish citizen. The law changed in 2000 and awarded citizenship by birth if one parent possesses German citizenship or if one parent has been a legal resident in Germany for eight years.

    Turkey's influence

    The number of players of Turkish origin has been rapidly increasing in the Bundesliga. There were a total of 23 Turkish footballers plying their trade in the German top-flight last season. Given the formation of the their youth teams, this figure could rise significantly over the next few years.

    There has also been a significant reverse migration to Turkey due to the foreign player ruling imposed by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). In a dramatic move to try and raise the quality of domestic talent, the TFF recently implemented controversial changes, restricting Super Lig sides to only being permitted to make a maximum of nine foreign signings - only five of which can play at the same time in any competitive domestic game.

    This has resulted in Turkish clubs focusing their transfer efforts on young Turks raised in academies across Europe.

    Super Lig teams are looking towards the Turkish population abroad for players

    Paul Sarahs, European football expert

    The number of Turkish footballers in the Super Lig born outside the country is astonishing: last season, 94 out of the 291 domestic players were not born within the county’s borders. Sixty-four were born in Germany with the remainder from Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Austria, England, Sweden and Switzerland.

    This could have long-term benefits for the Crescent-Stars.

    “With regulations limiting the number of foreign players allowed in Turkish clubs’ match-day squads, Super Lig teams are naturally looking towards the Turkish population abroad for players,” European football expert Paul Sarahs told Al Jazeera.

    “With superior coaching methods in western Europe and a huge population in diaspora, not only have the new regulations caused Super Lig clubs to cast their scouting nets further than ever, it will also have a positive impact on the quality of the national team in years to come.”

    The latest trend has been of Turkish coaches starting to make a name for themselves.

    Tayfun Korkut became the second Turkish international to be appointed manager of a Bundesliga team when he joined Hannover 96 last December. Turkish coaches transferring what they have learned in the western European footballing networks to Turkey could be the catalyst needed for domestic players to catch up with their brethren on the continent.

    What does look certain however, is a bright future for the next wave of Turkish talent coming through the academies of the Benelux and Germany.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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