BERLIN - Immigrants have helped give
Germany a strong team at the World Cup, the country's Sport
Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a radio interview on Monday.
He said the large number of players of foreign origin in the
side was an indication of improving integration in a country of
82 million with a foreign population of about seven million.
"It's tremendous progress - 11 of the 23 Germany players
are from immigrant families," De Maiziere, who is also the
Interior Minister, told Deutschlandfunk radio.
"They've worked hard, delivered a great performance. They
wanted to become German citizens and they've done that without
turning their backs on their home countries," he added. "We've
accepted that and they're loved as much as anyone else.
"It's a successful example of integration - a role model
for our country."
The families of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski came from
Poland, Mesut Ozil is of Turkish descent, Sami Khedira's father
is from Tunisia, Jerome Boateng's father is Ghanaian and Mario
Gomez was born to a Spanish father and German mother.
Guest workers have been coming to Germany for decades but
until recently few children of foreigners played for Germany.
Before the citizenship law was reformed in 1999, conservative
governments had said Germany was not a country of immigrants.
"This team is a successful example of integration,"
added de Maiziere. "Those who work hard will be accepted and
those who have faith (in Germany) will have opportunities."
The national team has been opening itself up since the 1998
World Cup when many in Germany hailed the ethnic diversity of
the French side that won the trophy after an all-white German
team lost 3-0 to Croatia in the quarter-finals.
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