When Zinedine Zidane infamously bowed out of the international game in 2006, world football not only lost one of its best players in history, but also one of the Muslim world’s biggest stars. Since then, no player has stepped up to earn the same veneration as the French icon. However, a lot can change in four years, and in that time a country that has a history of xenophobia has produced our new poster boy: Mesut Ozil.
It seemed as if Zidane’s head butt in the 2006 World Cup final sparked a train reaction in Muslim footballers. Frank Ribery, considered the finest French soccer player, was involved in an underage prostitution case. The Egyptian national team looked well on its way to being Africa’s team this World Cup until it collapsed and did not even qualify. An undisciplined Algerian squad collected a handful more red cards than goals. Iran, Turkey and Saudia Arabia all failed to qualify. Nicholas Anelka was booted off the French team in the group stages because of locker room drama, and Robin Van Persie of Netherlands has not be consistent enough for the Dutch Squad.
But just when everything seemed to go wrong, Mesut Ozil, a 21-year-old German striker, stepped onto the scene and showed the world and his country that the future is now.
His performance in the World Cup thus far has brought him onto headlines all across the World Cup as the German side is making its remarkable run in the finals, which was most recently capped off by a 4-0 demolishing victory over a red-hot Argentinian side.
While he is a proud soccer player with aspirations of becoming the best player in the world (his play has been compared to Diego Maradona), the Werder Bremen product is also a proud Muslim. In a fusion of the actions of former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (who refused to stand up for the U.S. national anthem) and Miroslav Klose and Lukas Padolski (Ozil’s German teammates of Polish descent who refuse to sing the German national anthem), Ozil recites the Quran during the pre-game ritual.
“It gives me strength,” he has explained. “If I don’t do it before a game it gives me a bad feeling.”
Ozil stated this without hesitation to the London Telegraph.
Where did this guy come from?
Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen-Bismarck, a highly populated Turkish town in Germany. At 1.7 million, the Turks are the largest minority in the country. While many Germans of Turkish descent choose to play for Turkey, Ozil, a third generation German-Turk, chose to play for his country of birth amid much controversy. Duncan White of London’s Telegraph reports brilliantly on this issue and the new wave of German futballers. The Islamic website, Qantara, also provides an in-depth profile on the Ozil.
Ozil starred for Germany’s U-21 national team, scoring three goals in a 4-1 victory over England in the European Under-21 Championship last summer. His performance quickly earned him a spot on the top squad. Ozil is now one of many current German national team members who carry foreign ancestry; a fact, that would have stirred many nationalists only a decade ago.
Instead, ethnic communities and various religious groups now identify even more with the country they now call home. By putting on the German uniform Ozil stands proudly as representative of his nation, and with the verses he recites from his lips he pays homage to himself and his brethren. Ozil and his teammates of both German and or foreign descent are bringing their countrymen together and reflecting a greater social movement in their country.
With his wonder-strike goal against Ghana in the final match of the group stage that sent Germany into the knockout round and his man-of-the-match performance in Germany’s 4-2 win over England, Ozil might be worth as much as $50 million dollars in the summers forthcoming transfer market, all with only 15 caps for Germany. He is being linked to Manchester United and Chelsea.
Here’s a star that chose to play for Germany, a country that is not predominantly Muslim, over a Muslim country and did a better service to the religion and society for it. Here is someone we can look to for inspiration.
He is the star we were waiting for.
Here is his goal against Ghana (don’t mind the techno):
Follow @Introversed on Twitter
Add Introversed to your news feed!Introversed on Facebook