At the very least, the fact that for days Ozil's and Gundogan's meeting with Erdogan was elevated to a kind of affair of state in Germany – first Chancellor Merkel made a statement, and then President Frank-Walter Steinmeier requested clarification – is an indicator of a lack of equanimity and self-assurance in the debate on the social transformation of German identities.

And the catcalls of the German fans against Ozil and Gundogan point in the same direction, because it is highly unlikely that the small group of booing fans are particularly interested in human rights in Turkey.

Statements such as Lindner's demand that the players sing the national anthem only further fuel the resentment that evidently still simmers in the minds of some fans. In view of a national team that is considered a role model for the new, diverse and cool immigration country of Germany, the persistent booing of two high-achieving national players with a migration history leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Professional football: human rights writ small

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/NDR)
Keep calm: prior to the World Cup, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the sporting significance of national team players Mesut Ozil and İlkay Gundogan for the German team. "To get a good result, we need them all to do well," said the Chancellor. "I don't think the two players considered what impact their photo with President Erdogan would have"

There is still another reason why the censure of Ozil and Gundogan appears hypocritical. While the two are rightly to blame for glossing over Erdogan's human rights violations, the international football federation FIFA, the national associations and the clubs are guilty of this to a much greater extent. Although the myth of allegedly apolitical football is repeatedly invoked, the World Cup championships as well as club football, just like other major sporting events, are not only economic heavyweights but also have massive political implications.

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