A Model of Successful Integration

Ilkay Gündogan is a rapidly rising star in German football. German born, but with Turkish roots, he has won the German Championship and the DFB Cup with Borussia Dortmund, has been selected for the German squad for UEFA Euro 2012, and is “Integration Ambassador” for the German Football Association. André Tucic sends us this profile

When the whistle blew at the end of the DFB Cup final, there was no end to the rejoicing on the Dortmund side. Borussia Dortmund (BVB) had beaten FC Bayern Munich 5-2 at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Ilkay Gündogan was also overcome with joy. Yet when he met fans, shook hands and exchanged slaps on the back, he suddenly paused for a moment: a fan was holding out a Turkish flag for him to take.

In such moments, it is commonplace for football players to drape themselves with their national flag, thereby highlighting their roots. But Gündogan, who only recently decided to play for the German and not the Turkish national team, turned down the offer of the flag.

Instead, he ran back to his celebrating teammates. A little bit later, however he could be seen with the white crescent moon on a red background wrapped around his body. He probably thought to himself: “I have Turkish roots and I should be allowed to express them.”

“I am just as proud of my Turkish roots as I am of my German heritage,” says Ilkay Gündogan. His father Erfan and mother Ayten were born in Turkey. Ilkay and his brother Ilker grew up in the city of Gelsenkirchen in the industrial Ruhr region, a good place for German–Turkish football players. After all, the city is the birthplace of Hamit and Halil Altintop and Mesut Özil. The Altintops play for Turkey, while Özil wears the German eagle on his breast.

“Illy,” as Ilkay Gündogan is called, could have played for his parents’ homeland if he had wanted to. “Of course, my Turkish heritage plays a role. But I was born and raised here and my mentality is German,” he said recently. Yet before he made his debut with the German national team last fall, he had to earn his stripes on many football fields.

Soccer group agrees to test hijabs for female players

Muslim female soccer players are celebrating a decision by the International Football Association Board to allow them to test specially designed head coverings for four months.

Soccer’s international governing body, known as FIFA, has prohibited headscarves since 2007, citing safety concerns. The new headscarves will be fastened with Velcro rather than pins.

The headscarf prohibition has generated controversy among fans of the world’s most popular team sport, especially in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

In Canada, Quebec’s Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association barred a referee from a game in 2011 because she wore a headscarf, citing prohibitions against religious symbols on uniforms. During a 2007 youth tournament in Quebec, a Muslim player was ejected from a game for wearing a headscarf.

French Football Association investigates ‘Race Quota’

News Agencies – May 3, 2011

An investigation has begun into claims France football coach Laurent Blanc and other coaches discussed informal quotas limiting black and Arab youth players’ involvement in the national set-up.
Technical director Francois Blaquart, one of those to be questioned, is suspended pending the probe’s outcome. Blaquart and Blanc have said their comments were taken out of context. News sources claimed that Blaquart proposed secretly limiting the proportion of black and North African players to 30% at certain regional youth training centres, including the renowned Clairefontaine facility.
Blanc is alleged to have agreed with the plan in order to promote players with “our culture, our history”. The story has provoked reaction amongst ex-France internationals. Former defender Lilian Thuram, a team-mate of Blanc’s in the 1998 World Cup winning team, has spoken of his shock at the idea of quotas, while Basile Boli said it was “impossible” to support Blanc.

Rule against hijab stands: world soccer body

The F_d_ration Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, during its annual general meeting in Manchester, England, upheld its regulation against hijabs. FIFA’s prohibition became a point of public controversy after 11-year-old Ottawa soccer player Asmahan Mansour was ejected on February 25 from a tournament game by a referee.