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17% of Germans against Turkish-origin player as national team capt.: Survey

Germany's Ilkay Gundogan during training, Euro 2024 Germany Training Camp, Spa & Golf Resort Weimarer Land, Blankenhain, Germany, May 30, 2024. (Reuters)
By Reuters
June 7, 2024

Germany’s national football team captain, Ilkay Gundogan, recently underscored the significance of having leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds to accurately reflect the country’s contemporary society. Gundogan, whose parents are of Turkish descent, spoke on the matter during an interview with Der Spiegel magazine. His comments come in the wake of a controversial poll conducted by public broadcaster ARD.

In a representative poll by ARD, 21% of Germans said they prefer to see more players with white skin on the national football team.

Nearly 17% said they regret that the national team’s current captain is a player with Turkish roots.

The findings sparked a debate on racism and diversity, with national team coach Julian Nagelsmann and several players condemning the poll as racist.

Gundogan, who has been a vocal advocate for inclusivity, stated, “I know that people like me are needed in leading positions because that reflects the new reality of Germany. We may look different but we are also German. I know that I can be a role model. But it is not something I want to stress too much.”

Despite the significance of his ethnic background, Gundogan emphasized that his role as team captain, a position he assumed in 2023, was earned through merit. “I did not become team captain because of my migration background. They have nothing to do with each other. It is about how teammates and coaches see you. You are only made captain if you are seen and recognized by the team as open, honest, and good,” he explained.

The ARD poll was conducted ahead of Euro 2024, which Germany is set to host starting June 14. The broadcaster mentioned that a reporter working on a documentary about football and diversity encountered numerous remarks regarding the composition of the national team, reflecting ongoing societal issues related to race and representation.

As Germany prepares for the prestigious tournament, Gundogan’s comments highlight a broader call for a more inclusive society, where leadership and representation reflect the diverse fabric of the nation.

By Reuters Last Updated:  Jun 7, 2024 12:54 PM