The Five Billion Person Party

Notes of a wandering American soccer fan

The Doner-ization of Germany

Posted by steigs on June 25, 2008

Today’s Euro semi-final match-up of Germany and Turkey highlights something most Americans are unaware of — the vast Turkish immigrant population of Germany.  The post-World War II rebuilding of West Germany involved importing a lot of low-wage, low-skill “guest workers” from Turkey, many of whom put down roots and stayed.  It is a bit reminscent of the influx of Hispanics to the US.

It’s been a difficult relationship at times but the influence of Turks in Germany is undeniable.  For example, the quintessential street food of Berlin may be the doner kebab, a shaved meat sandwich.  (It’s yummy.)  It’s a bit like the way adapted Mexican food has become an American staple, a cultural infiltration through the stomach.

If you believe the New York Times, today’s game will be a friendly rivalry match:

If the most memorable symbol of Germany’s successful hosting of the World Cup in 2006 was the German flag displayed without shame or second-guessing, the motif this time around for German spectators are the twin Turkish and German flags flapping from countless car windows around the country.

“Of course my heart lies first with the German team,” said Rainer Krause, 63, a Berlin native who bought a red Turkish flag as well as a German one at a store in the heavily Turkish Neukölln neighborhood, where he works., “But over the decades the loyalties have grown together, there are such strong feelings of connection.”


Some Germans have gone so far as to switch allegiances from their home team to Turkey, a sentimental favorite of the tournament if not quite a Cinderella, considering its run to the semifinals in the 2002 World Cup. “It’s only fair,” said Rosie Lambrecht, who was out shopping for a Turkey T-shirt on Tuesday morning and who roots with her Turkish friends and neighbors in Neukölln. “They’ve never won the tournament.”

The Times says 500,000 (!) are expected in the public viewing area by the Brandenburg Gate.  Hopefully, it will go off peacefully, a sign of how sport can bring people together.

Someday, the US and Mexico may reach that stage.  For now, it’s not important enough for most Americans and, perhaps, too important for Mexican fans.  But it’s nice to imagine a re-match of the US-Mexico knock-out round game in the 2002 World Cup at, say, a 2022 World Cup with thousands of fans of both teams watching together in parks in New York and LA and DC…


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