Turkish Players Glaringly Absent from Germany′s National Squad | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.06.2008
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Turkish Players Glaringly Absent from Germany's National Squad

Several of Turkey's top players were born and raised in Germany. The absence of Turks on Germany's the national team is a sore point leading into this week's semi-final showdown.

Turkey's Hamit Altintop

Hamit Altintop gives interviews in German, but plays for Turkey

When Germany and Turkey face off on Wednesday, June 25 there will be plenty of German spoken by both sides. The Turkish roster is filled with players from immigrant families who were not only born in Germany but made a name for themselves playing for their adopted country's clubs.

So there is a certain amount of consternation that none of the talented German-Turkish players chose to play for Germany.

"For most players of Turkish origin, decisions are taken based on family influences," former Germany player Matthias Sammer, now the sporting director of the German federation, told "DPA news agency."

Top Turkish players Hamit Altintop and Hakan Balta are perfect examples. Both were born and played soccer for Gelsenkirchen and Berlin, respectively. There are many others like them, including Uemuez Davala, Yldiray Bastuerk, Altintop's brother, Halil, and Nuri Sahin, the youngster whom Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has called one of the greatest talents in European football.

They all chose the Ottoman crescent moon over the Prussian eagle.

Team international, but not Turkish

Turkey's national team

Several Turkish players were born in Germany

Despite many Turkish players in Germany's first-division clubs, Germany has only rarely tapped players of Turkish origin for its national team.

The exclusion is all the more striking when the European makeup of Germany's six forwards is taken into consideration. Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose were born in Poland. Oliver

Neuville was born in Switzerland. Kevin Kuranyi is a globe-trotter born in Brazil and raised in Panama, and David Odonkor has family roots in Ghana.

The only player of Turkish origin to have played for Germany is Mustafa Dogan, who played just two games for the national team about a decade ago.

Mehmet Scholl, born Mehmet Yueksel to a Turkish father and a German mother, played 36 games for Germany. But he was brought up with a German stepfather from whom he took the surname Scholl and did not feel strong cultural ties to Turkey.

Loyalties deeper than soccer

Screenshot of Lukas Podolski's homepage

Many of Germany's players have ties to elsewhere

Some have said the lack of Turkish players shows the Germany's failure to integrate immigrants. There are more than 2 million Germans of Turkish origin.

Some have gone even further and alleged that discrimination against Turkish immigrants runs deep in German society. Faruk Sen, recently compared the treatment of Turks in Europe with the persecution of Jews during Nazi times. Sen is the director of the Center for Turkish Studies in the western German city of Essen

Although some Turks have lived in Europe for nearly five decades, they are “to various degrees and in various forms discriminated against and excluded like the Jews.”

“They are the new Jews of Europe,” Sens reportedly said in the Turkish newspaper Referans.

Green Party politician Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin, said that regardless of who or what is to blame for talented Turkish-German players deciding to play for Turkey, he has not given up hope that eventually players like Hamit Altintop and Hakan Balta will be on the German team.

“Sooner or later we will have a national player with Turkish origins,” Ozdemir told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Turkey actively recruits from Germany

Soccer fans wave Turkish flags from a car

Turkey has plenty of fans in Germany

The Turkish soccer federation set up an office in Cologne 10 years ago to identify talented Turkish players in European leagues. The federation has been extremely successful in convincing players to come to Turkey or at least to play for their mother country if given the chance.

"If we convince a player, there is nothing the German federation can do to make him change his mind, even with 10 coaches or psychologists," the office's sports director Metin Tekin told the German daily TAZ.

Tekin said his group evaluates some 200 players of Turkish origin per year.

In his view, Germany made the mistake of "for decades never showing an interest in players of Turkish origin."

Turning the tide?

The Turkish soccer federation has managed to recruit under-21 team talents like Sahin, formerly with Borussia Dortmund and now at the Dutch club Feyenoord, and Zafer Yelen, Serkan Calik and Bilal Cubukcu. All of them could have played for Germany but chose Turkey.

But there are signs that German football authorities have stepped up recruiting efforts. Several players of Turkish origin elected to join Germany's under-21 squad: Serdar Tasci, who won the Bundesliga title last year with Stuttgart, Mesut Oezil, formerly with Schalke and now at Werder Bremen, and Bariz Oezbek, raised and trained in Germany and now at Galatasaray.

All these players could have the chance to play for Germany at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.