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Germany

Soccer group nets top prize in integration awards

A football group for children and teenagers has netted the top prize as a positive example of integration in Germany. The plaudit comes hot on the heels of a prestigious integration award for footballer Mesut Oezil.

Thomas De Maiziere, center, with representatives of Al-Hilal

De Maiziere, center, presented the prize to sports club representatives

The first prize in the German Islam Conference awards for integration went to a project that brings together children and teenagers to play football.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere presented the prize, along with 5,000 euros to the Al Hilal international sports club in the western German town of Bad Godesberg.

Speaking to guests at the awards ceremony, de Maiziere said it was a mistake to expect integration to always run smoothly and that sometimes disagreements were natural.

"Successfully surviving discord is a greater success story than no discord at all," he said. Recent months in Germany have seen growing debate over a perceived failure by some of the country's Turkish and Arab community to integrate.

All backgrounds welcome

The project brings together boys and girls to play soccer from some 21 different countries of origin and trains male and female soccer coaches. Individuals from all ethnic backgrounds are welcome and all training is given in the German language.

Mesut Oezil receiving his Bambi trophy from German TV presenter Nazan Eckes

Footballer Mesut Oezil received an award for integration only a day earlier

The project was one of six to be honored with a prize on Friday, with 186 applications for recognition in total. The awards were being presented for the first time this year, as part of a new government initiative.

The second prize, and 3,000 euros, was shared between two winners. One was a project to make Muslim women in Berlin more familiar with the work of the police, while the other was for a Muslim Internet discussion forum.

Third prize went to a forum bringing together Muslim women and other members of the community in the southern German town of Reutlingen.

Football star wins a 'Bambi'

The awards were announced a day after Germany soccer star Mesut Oezil was awarded a prize for integration at Germany's prestigious awards ceremony the Bambis.

Although he is of Turkish origin, Oezil has gone on record as saying that he only ever wanted to play for Germany, considering it to be his true homeland.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa, KNA)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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