Recent  football headlines have been dominated by an issue that many had thought was in an advanced state of decline.  Racism.

John Terry‘s mealy mouthed denials were not believed by the Football Association, England players were subjected to “monkey chants” in Serbia, and “Kick it Out“, the campaign which aims to end racism in soccer has come in for criticism for not doing enough to speak out against the issue.

Things have improved over the years certainly.  The same moronic Newcastle United supporters who once threw bananas at visiting black players are now doubtless delighted by the performances of Demba BaPapiss Cissé and even Shola Ameobi when he scores against local rivals Sunderland.  Sadly it seems that the improvements are not so great, the outward behaviours still mask the discrimination beneath.

I had an interesting discussion about racism yesterday with a German girl.  German, because she was born in Germany, educated in Germany and has her home in Germany, yet despite this she was branded a “foreigner” whilst at school because her ancestry is Turkish.

In the same way as the UK encouraged an influx of West Indians to meet demands for labour in the decades that followed the Second World War, so Germany created its Guest Worker programme at the beginning of the 1960’s.  The Germans thought this would be a short-term influx, the Turks (and other nationalities who came) saw it as a temporary way of generating an income before returning home after a few months of well paid work.

Life of course is not so rational.  People put down roots and 50 years later there are third generation Turkish Germans.  The German national football team is testament to the significance of the Turkish community there with players such as Mehmet Scholl and Mesut Özil making their mark, and whilst Wikipedia’s list of famous German Turks is dominated by footballers, many are still made to feel like outsiders and so choose to play for the Turkish national team instead.

Yasemin’s experience of racism seems not so far removed from that of Muslims in the UK.  The problem is a global one that we must all tackle.

One of the contributors to our discussion was a young Namibian guy called Rex who predicted that in 50 years the world would be far more accepting of different races and cultures. Perhaps he’ll be proved right.  Yasemin may not be what was historically seen as an ideal German, but this intelligent and beautiful young woman demonstrated this weekend how much she has to offer.  I hope she is given the opportunities to fulfil her potential.


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