Germany’s national handball team has been mired in controversy just days after they took the European title because every player on the squad is a ‘Nordic Aryan’ ethnic German.
The team has been compared unfavourably to Germany’s Alternative Fur Deutschland (AfD) party — which is itself compared to Britain’s UKIP Eurosceptic party — for their all-white line-up by a left-wing academic. The criticism came from a guest column in Germany’s Zeit by the editor of Philosophy Magazine and so-called football expert Wolfram Eilenberger, who pointed out “the successful team does not have one player with dark skin or even a Mediterranean complexion.
“It is moreover, a team without any migration background… We list the named of the players: Hendrick, Finn, Erik, Christian, Steffen, Jannick, Niclas, Steffen, Fabian, Simon, Tobias, Johannes, Carsten, Andreas, Rune, Martin. This must be [hard to achieve] in 2016 in this country.
“Apparently this sport has remained socially stuck somewhere from 30 years ago”.
Dr. Eilenberger conceded there was one person on the squad who wasn’t a German citizen, but they didn’t play. The team coach is a from Iceland and, he complains, “fits perfectly into the Nordic Aryan image”. The football fan praised football for being like chancellor Merkel — diverse — and scorned handball for being like Mrs. Petry, the AfD leader.
Despite the discrepancy between the make-up of the team and the resident population of modern Germany as a whole, Eilenberger did concede there were reasons besides the very German character of the players why handball was enjoying a meteoric rise in success in the country. He cited the fact it wasn’t overly commercialised, and had amateur players bringing “authenticity”, a feel of the under-dog to Germany’s unlikely success in the European championships, the so called “miracle of Krakow” after their extra-time victory there in January.
The manliness of the game also appeals, the philosopher suspects. There is “no whining, no rolling, no complaining… [it is an] honest sport of honest men for honest citizens, hearty, bloody, confrontational”. While it is family friendly, he says, it is not like “feminised professional football”.
Three days after his article, the ideas put forward by Dr. Eilenberger are still generating controversy. Zeit have posted a note on their own website acknowledging the furore surrounding it, and have published the remarks of a sports sociologist who blasted the article as being a “completely exaggerated polemic” and that handball has nothing to do with the AfD.
The German Handball Association is considering legal action against the philosopher for maligning them so badly, reports magazine Focus. The association has pointed out they go into classrooms annually to raise awareness of the sport, and sport comics aimed at children are already available translated into Turkish and Arabic for pupils at German schools to teach them about handball.
Watch: Germany’s ‘Nordic Aryan’ Squad Defeats Spain In The European Handball Finals