German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan present signed jerseys of their clubs to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

  • Before the World Cup started Mesut Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Ozil a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014 and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch in Russia

BERLIN: Since Germany humiliatingly crashed out of the World Cup, a team member with Turkish roots has faced a hailstorm of criticism that Muslim and migrant groups charge is openly racist.
Mesut Ozil, 29, quickly become a scapegoat for far-right populists, but the storm escalated when even German football bosses, rather than defend him, suggested the squad may have been better off without him.
At the heart of the storm is a political controversy that flared before the World Cup started, when Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The incident sparked heated debate on whether the young men felt greater loyalty to their birth country Germany or to Turkey, the ancestral home of their families and of a three-million-strong minority group.
While Gundogan, 27, who plays for Manchester City, voiced dismay about the controversy, Ozil, an Arsenal midfielder, further infuriated critics by staying silent on the Erdogan affair.
Ozil, a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014, and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch which, according to Bild daily, reduced Gundogan to tears in the locker room.
But the anger escalated after Germany’s shock first-round defeat to South Korea dismayed the football-mad nation.
First off the mark was the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has long railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees.
AfD lawmaker Jens Maier charged bluntly that “Without Ozil we would have won!” in a tweet that also featured a picture of a smiling Ozil and the words “Are you satisfied, my president?“
The far-right AfD has risen to prominence with such shrill provocations, repeatedly suggesting that the national team should be made up of white, ethnic Germans.
But Muslim and other minority groups see the broader finger-pointing as a sign of a dangerous societal drift to the right at a time when immigration is a hot-button political issue.
Cihan Sinanoglu of the Turkish community in Germany told news agency DPA that the charges of disloyalty confirmed many Germans in their belief that “integration and multiculturalism have failed.”
The issue came to a head last week when German Football Association (DFB) bosses, rather than try to defuse the situation, suggested the team may have done better without Ozil.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, called for DFB president Reinhard Grindel and team director Oliver Bierhoff to resign.
Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the players grew up, also slammed the DFB chiefs.
“The notion that a photo with Erdogan is to blame for the defeat against football giants South Korea,” he said, “is an idea only DFB officials could come up with — after three weeks of pondering the issue.”
Greens party politician Cem Ozdemir said that, although the Erdogan picture was a “grave mistake,” it did not justify the “clearly racist criticism” and accused the DFB of “cowardice.”
Author Baha Gungor said Ozil “is suffering the fate of hundreds of thousands of Turkish-born young people in Germany, who have totally integrated but, because they are also committed to their Turkish roots, always end up back in the crossfire.”
Speaking to a Cologne newspaper, he cited a similar example from France where player Karim Benzema, who has Algerian roots, had once remarked: “If I score, I am a Frenchman. If I miss, I am an Arab.”
He pointed out that after racist attacks against Swedish international Jimmy Durmaz, who has Syrian roots, the entire Swedish team had backed their teammate and shouted “Fuck Racism.”
“And in Germany? Here, the racism raining down on the two players is still met with silence, a scapegoat is being sought by those who want to distract from their own failure.”
Ozil’s 50-year-old father Mustafa told newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Bierhoff’s “insult ... serves to save his own skin” but had left his son “crestfallen, disappointed and offended.”
“We used to say that if we win, we win together. But now that we lost, we lost because of Ozil?“
“If I were in his place, I would say thank you, but I’m done. The hurt has been too much. In Mesut’s place, I would step down.”


Barbados appoints Ambassador Rihanna

Updated 22 September 2018
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Barbados appoints Ambassador Rihanna

  • Rihanna's home country tasked her with promoting investment and tourism
  • The singer has scored 14 number-one singles on the US Billboard chart

NEW YORK: Rihanna is now Ambassador Rihanna, after her home country tasked her with promoting investment and tourism.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said that Rihanna — real name Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has been conferred the title of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
While the singer will not be formally accredited to another country, Mottley said that Rihanna — whose more colorful songs include “Bitch Better Have My Money” — would be in charge of bringing investment as well as encouraging education and tourism.
“I couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title in my home country. Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility,” Rihanna said in a statement dated Thursday.
Rihanna, 30, grew up in a troubled home in Barbados and was propelled to fame after visiting US producer Evan Rogers recognized her talents.
The singer, who since achieving stardom has lived primarily in Los Angeles and New York, has scored 14 number-one singles on the US Billboard chart, more than any artist except The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey.