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Germany's immigrant communities throw support behind national team

The German national team is more ethnically mixed than ever - so too are its fans. Supporters from many backgrounds are backing the home team as Germany progresses through the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Turks Mustafa Cambudak, Fahrettin Hanei and Nevazat Cavan, from left, sitting under a German flag at a cafe in Berlin

Many Turks supported Germany in the last World Cup

While German team captain Philipp Lahm and his deputy Bastian Schweinsteiger hail from Bavaria, 11 members of the 23-man World Cup 2010 squad have foreign roots.

Five were born outside Germany. Forwards Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Piotr Trochowski were born in Poland, winger Marko Marin in Yugoslavia and striker Cacau in Brazil.

But it's not just on the football field in South Africa that German football's multicultural side is apparent. Off the pitch, the German team's fan base is diverse, and you don't have to be born in Germany to support the national side, regulars at one bar in the city of Bonn were keen to stress to Deutsche Welle.

Nineteen-year-old Denise Pinto, whose family came from Portugal before she was born, has been cheering Germany on all her life.

Football fans Denise Pinto and Hassan Chafik

Football fans Denise Pinto and Hassan Chafik are supporting Germany

While she counts Lahm among her favorite players, it's midfielder Mesut Oezil, of Turkish descent, who she believes is German football's new hope.

"I find it impressive that a country like Germany, with its history, has become such a multicultural country that players such as Mesut Oezil can be celebrated as a national hero," she said.

Pinto added that believes the team is capable of winning the World Cup.

"I honestly do think they can win it," she said. "They are young and they still want to play football."

Even if it comes to a showdown between Germany and Portugal, where her family's roots are, she'll simply have it both ways.

"I support both of them. In previous tournaments they have both done well and I can be happy for both."

Football, not politics

Germany's Mesut Oezil

Oezil, Germany's new hope? One fan of Portuguese descent thinks so

Hassan Ado, who was born in Syria and who has been in Germany for 15 years, is also supporting Germany.

"Whoever plays well should play in the team, whether they have an immigrant background or not," said Hassan, 42. "It is about football and shouldn't be about politics."

That may be true, but politicians have addressed the diversity of the national side publicly. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and presidential candidate Christian Wulff have claimed the team for this year's World Cup is a model for German integration.

Germany has had difficulty integrating some of its growing ethnic population. Experts have expressed concern about the existence of "parallel societies" of immigrants who live in Germany, or were even born here, but have little to do with the larger society and still largely adhere to ways and attitudes from their countries of origin.

But as Germany's team becomes more ethnically diverse, it begins to reflect the changing demographic of the country at large.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German national team game

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised the side's diversity

"There didn't use to be so many foreigners in the German team but now there are many more immigrants in the country as a whole than there were," said 48-year-old Hassan Chafik, who came to work in Germany from Morocco in 1998 and also supports Germany in international matches. "That's the reason it has changed."

But despite more than a decade in Germany, if Germany were to play Morocco, Chafik's loyalties would be split.

"I think I would say Morocco, but it's difficult," he said.

The phenomenon of growing support among Germany's immigrant communities is not a new one. In 2006, when Germany hosted the World Cup, Turks living in Germany celebrated the home team's victories along with native Germans, especially since the Turkish side had failed to qualify for that tournament, nor are they in this one.

And with other nations that have large immigrant communities in Germany - such as Poland and Russia - absent at this tournament, there are plenty more potential fans for Lahm and Co.

Author: Richard Connor

Editor: Kyle James

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