Mesut Özil: The Perpetually-Hyphenated Footballer

No sport involves topics like ethnicity and cultural distinctions quite as much as football. From teams that only  field athletes of certain cultural backgrounds, to ever-evolving discussions regarding race and integration in countries like France and Italy, ethnicity and culture are always at the forefront of football, a situation that can be constructive, but just as often perpetuates misunderstandings. That said, we’re a bit confused as to why Mesut Özil is a perpetually-hyphenated footballer. 

It’s no surprise that Mesut Özil’s transfer to Arsenal is making headlines across Europe, but what is startling is that most stories regarding the transfer include a qualifer when discussing the footballer: Turkish-German, even though Özil was born in the heart of Germany. From The Daily Mail: 

 ”The arrival of the third-generation Turkish-German playmaker Ozil comes in a deal worth the best part of £200,000-per-week …”

Now, The Daily Mail has a reputation as a newspaper that places a premium on tumult, but it’s a trend visible in newspapers across Europe, and one that, despite the seemingly throw-away nature of the phrase, is unquestionably significant.

Whether the malice is intentional or not, qualifers both demonstrate ongoing cultural tensions, and marginalize specific populations by implying that they are not full-members of society. “Turkish-German, sure, but German? No.” This might seem relatively unimportant, but in a practical sense, these sort of distinctions place barriers between people and impact everyday interactions, not to mention issues like employment, pay and incarceration…

This isn’t to say that Özil’s cultural heritage isn’t a topic that deserves attention, but that an article discussing a transfer window isn’t exactly the right place for it. Further, it’s doubtful whether any harm is intended in the use of qualifiers when a trend of lazy journalism is far more likely. Regardless, words carry weight, and we ought to consider their implications. [Posted by Maxi]

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