I don’t think that Thilo Sarrazin is a football fan. It’s the way that he looks through those piggy little eyes that could never seem to take in the full scope of a game. The man who has single-handedly tried to open up more sore wounds than a raking Franco Baresi slide tackle in Germany may not, therefore, even care; but I wouldn’t bet against him rubbing his filthy little hands together (they always have small hands, don’t they?) with glee at the chance of trouble on Friday night in the Olympiastadion when Germany play Turkey in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Fortunately, it won’t happen.
When Group A was originally drawn there was a debate within the German national association as to whether this game should be played in Berlin and be allowed to become a home fixture for Turkey. Though the wording is racially charged, it was actually meant that coming top of the group is rather important in regards to seedings when the teams actually get to Poland and Ukraine. When you have to go to a bear pit away once already (and may need the points), why invite another in the city with a huge Turkish population?
Naturally there are those who agree with the point, but come at it from a slightly more simplistic angle. The likes of whom invited shit-for-brained-wind-up-merchant-for-hire, Geert Wilders, to speak here last weekend to name but a few. They are certainly not going to relish the idea of the Olympiastadion becoming the Ali Sami Yen at home – the flaming cauldron that famously greeted Manchester United a few years ago for a champions league game with the “Welcome to Hell” banner.
I watched Hertha play at home to Galatasaray in the UEFA Cup a couple of years ago when the old place was taken over. Hertha were as outplayed and outsung as they were outnumbered. The kernels on the ground, flare smoke in the air and whistles in the ears making you question who was at home that night. But – admittedly, maybe the players didn’t see it like this – it wasn’t in any way intimidating. I have genuinely never seen as many families at a game of football in my life. It’s just that Mum could whistle a fucking house down.
I have to say that the “integration” question is immaterial to this game of football, and the inevitable rearing of its head is as disappointing as it is boring. Tim Parks can barely avoid discussing racism in his book A Season With Verona, but he includes a great quote from 19th century writer Giovanni Maria de’ Bardi: “Football is a public game of two groups of young men… who pleasingly compete to move a medium sized, inflated ball from one end of the piazza to the other, for the sake of honour.” Honour, yes. No point wanting to lose. But national pride is not at stake on Friday, merely the (important) question of who is going to top the group. When people start dictating to us who to support, then we are really in trouble.
The idea that living in Germany means you have to support the team is as anachronistic, backwards (and frankly likely to do nothing more than push a generation of fans into the evil clutches of foreign teams) than the infamous Norman Tebbit test was. It only leads down the particularly shitty path that suggests that Hamit Altintop and Nuri Sahin are traitors (born in Germany, play for Turkey) and should be slung out alongside Cacau and Miroslav Klöse (Brazil and Poland, play for Germany). Mesut Özil has said publically that he was conflicted when having to choose between the country of his birth and the country of his parents’, but he took the pragmatic view. He was vindicated, had he not had a wonderful World Cup with Germany he may well not be playing for Real Madrid now. That’s the Madrid of Alfredo DiStefano and Ferenc Puskas who made similar decisions a very long time ago by the way.
For the record, in the bar I watched Germany destroy England in during the World Cup this summer, all the Turkish guys went mental. It was not even in question who they wanted to win that one, even if it was as a second team. And for that, I will be the only foreigner there on Friday night wanting a goalless draw. Let’s see what Sarrazin would make of that.