2014 April | FREE

Archive the month of April 2014

April 26, 2014

Player mobility in the 1930s: the case of France

Guest contribution by Keith Rathbone, PhD candidate in French social and cultural history at Northwestern University. His dissertation, tentatively entitled Playing Soccer during Vichy: Sports, the State, and Society, examines sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime.

The French multicultural rallying cry ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ may no longer be used following some disillusions since the World Cup victory in 1998, but in 2014, as for all previous World Cups, France will line up a team which integrates players of different origins. In fact, France, more than any other country, has long benefited from the movement of football talent across national borders, and not only from its colonies and overseas territories. As early as the 1930s, concurrent to France’s emergence as Europe’s premier immigrant destination, a real trend of immigrant footballers was emerging.

Gusti Jordan, Hector Cazenave, and Miguel Ángel Lauri - three destinies of the 1930s. (Photos: FFF archives).

For the period between the start of professional football in France in 1932 and the Second World War, Marc Barreaud identified, in his Dictionnaire des footballeurs étrangers, 540 foreign players that played for French clubs. The average number of foreign born footballers in the league exceeded 100 annually, with approximately 50 new immigrant players entering and leaving the league per year. Each club commonly employed around seven immigrants, both naturalised and non-naturalised, at any given time. (1)

French teams, both large and small, but particularly the so-called ‘grand clubs’, sought out top foreign talent. Buoyed by the support of their municipal and departmental administrations, clubs used their financial resources to go on spending sprees across Europe, attracting players in countries where professional football remained prohibited or where living conditions lagged behind those in France. A report dated 11 November 1934 and entitled ‘Les Systèmes de recrutement’ from the bimonthly publication of Racing Club de Calais called Le Racing, outlined how French sporting associations identified, developed, and eventually recruited foreign talent, often ‘by correspondence through Viennese, Praguian, or Parisian intermediaries.’ Taking advantage of the political and economic dislocations, these recruiting agents became virtual pipelines of players such that in the 1930s, Austria alone, where football remained amateur only, saw more than one hundred top players leave for France.

In a longitudinal analysis of the transfer market from the 19th century until the present, as provided by the company EyeSeeData (http://eyeseedata.com/football-player-transfers/), a clear pattern emerges: immediately following the professionalisation of football in France in 1932, the number of transfer players to France jumps significantly, making France, throughout the 1930s, Europe’s number one destination for transfers.

The arrival of star immigrant players into French football raised as many difficult questions at that time as it did after the 1998 World Cup victory in Paris. The cases of August ‘Gusti’ Jordan, Hector Cazenave, and Miguel Ángel Lauri are particularly instructive. Jordan, born in Linz, Austria, in 1909 and part of Austria’s ‘Wunderteam’ football generation, was recruited by Racing Club de Paris at the start of the 1933/34 season. In 1938, Gaston Barreau, the long-time coach of the French National Team, persuaded Jordan become a French citizen and to accept a call to the French National Team.

Jordan’s naturalisation spurred a vicious debate in the French sporting press over foreign players. Many French sportsmen accepted it, particularly because of his talent, provided that he professed some minimum commitment to the French nation and its institutions. In an article dated 2 January 1938 and entitled ‘What is a French football player?’, the sports paper L’Auto conceded that bringing Jordan onto the team seemed ‘indecent’ but that since he had spent a significant time in France and ‘came into his own as a midfield policeman in France,’ his naturalisation was acceptable. In fact, the addition of the Austrian, they added, might benefit the French team because he ‘inherited the long football tradition of [Austria].’ Likewise, the great Gabriel Hanot defended Jordan in the extremely popular Football (19 January 1938), laying out his qualifications as ‘Français à tous égards’: he had lived in France for more than five years and fallen in love with the country. He served with the French army for a period of two years – a normal period of enlistment. Hanot rejected the notion that a nation needed to be pure of blood and suggested instead that France needed new blood to deal with their falling natality and their relatively poor performance on the football field. Unsurprisingly, on the extreme right of opinion, others disagreed with Jordan’s naturalisation. The reporter Lucien Dubec thought it was ‘indecent to play Jordan, Austrian for three decades, who just abandoned his country for ours. Not knowing what it means to be French, he cannot hold high our national colours.’ (2)

French fans felt much more comfortable with the naturalisations of ethnically French immigrants. Both Hector Cazenave and Miguel Ángel Lauri immigrated to France from South America where they were born to French emigrés. Sporting (30 November 1937) considered Cazenave an ‘extremely correct man’ who was ‘able to produce papers attesting to his French parentage.’ Lauri, by contrast, had a shaky back story, studiously avoided his mandatory service in the French military, and refused to publically renounce his Argentine citizenship. In spite of Lauri’s inflexibility, no one in the sports press complained about Lauri’s foreignness or attempted to stop him from playing on the French National Team. Unfortunately, as soon as the ‘clarion call’ sounded for Lauri to join the French Army, he fled back to Argentina and re-became Argentinean…

Three quarters of a century later, polemic debates on the ‘Frenchness’ of immigrant players may still be revived once in a while by the Front National. But now that France has no mandatory military service anymore, a story like Lauri’s is no longer likely to happen.

(1) Marc Barreaud, Dictionnaire des footballeurs étrangers: Du Championnat professionnel français (1932-1997) (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000), 18-56.

(2) Yvan Gastaut, ‘Auguste Jordan: un Autrichien sous le maillot tricolore au temps des années noires’, http://www.wearefootball.org/PDF/auguste-jordan.pdf)

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Posts - No comment

April 21, 2014

New migration flows

German coaches in Turkish football have a long tradition. 40 years ago, Horst Buhtz was the first one, winning the Cup with Beşiktaş in the 1974/75 season. Since then there have been several dozens of them, often great names like Karlheinz Feldkamp or Jürgen Röber or, more recently, Christoph Daum, Bernd Schuster, or Michael Skibbe. They were sure to be welcomed like saviours by both the fans and the press. Even if in most cases they used the Turkish league as a stepping stone for a career re-start after having been fired in Germany – like Joachim Löw, when he took over Fenerbahçe in 1998-99 – they were endowed with the halo of German football and expected to bring the know-how, methods and serious business manners of a ‘civilised’ football nation to an ‘underdeveloped’ country.

Galatasaray observe a minute of silence at for Jupp Derwall in 2007.

Jupp Derwall, the most important of this large cohort of German ‘missionaries’, is still today revered as the man who changed Turkish football for the better in the 1980s. Winner of the 1980 European Championship and finalist of the 1982 World Cup, he was ousted by the German federation after a very poor showing of the Nationalmannschaft at Euro84 in France. He went beyond introducing modern training methods to clubs and imposing discipline on players, by changing the very structures of Turkish football, especially with regard to youth training and scouting. When he was offered the position of national coach in 1990, he gracefully declined, suggesting his colleague and compatriot Sepp Piontek instead, who took Fatih Terim as assistant. When Derwall died at age 80 in 2007, the funerals in the Saarland were attended by an impressive Turkish delegation.

In spring 2014, perspectives have changed. For the first time ever, a Bundesliga club in need of replacing their coach went headhunting in Turkey. Tayfun Korkut, born in 1974, the year in which Horst Buhtz went to Istanbul, was entrusted with the difficult task of saving Hannover 96 from relegation. Today, with only three games left and 35 points in the league table, it seems he has succeeded and will thus have the opportunity to continue next season, making his own imprint on the team and its composition and becoming a familiar face in the Bundesliga.

Tayfun Korkut at his first Hannover 96 press conference.

What Hannover was looking for, however, was not necessarily a ‘Turkish’ coach, but a truly European one, representative of a very mobile migrant generation. True, Korkut, who had played 42 times for Turkey in the 1990s and early 2000s, had been assistant to the Turkish national coach, when they hired him, but as a matter of fact this had been his first and only year of engagement in Turkey after coaching youth teams in the reputed training centres of San Sebastian, Hoffenheim and Stuttgart for seven years.

In his press conferences, Tayfun Korkut’s remarkably eloquent German reveals the entire German socialisation he has undergone. Nothing but the consonance of his name distinguishes him from other Bundesliga coaches of his generation, such as Thomas Tuchel, Robin Dutt or Jürgen Klopp. Besides the fact that he, unlike the other three, also speaks fluent Turkish and Spanish.

Tayfun Korkut’s career deserves to be followed closely. Juggling with loyalties to three different countries and very obviously feeling at home in each of them, he is a revealing illustration of new European migration flows. It will be interesting to see what his next year in the Bundesliga will look like and how, eventually, his inevitable departure from Hannover will be dealt with by media and supporters. And in a more distant future, while I am not certain if there ever was a Turkish head coach in the Spanish Liga, I might have an idea who might become the first one.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Posts - No comment

April 1, 2014

Business as usual

'We light up the football'

While European political leaders are trying to find suitable responses to Russia’s quiet annexion of Crimea, going so far as to cancel the planned G8 meeting in Sochi, European football leaders carry on business as usual. In living rooms all across the continent this week’s broadcasts of the Champions League quarter finals will be opened by a video clip promoting … Gazprom. ‘We light up the football!’, it proclaims, to the triumphant sounds of Tchaikowsky’s piano concerto. From Moscow with love…

Of course, ‘football should not be mixed with politics’, as the mantra of all institutional actors in international football has been going for decades. Except one: Alexei Sorokin, former executive manager of the Russian football federation, was quoted saying very clearly ‘Football is foreign policy!’, when presenting the five-year plan’ (!) that was established in 2008 with the aim of bringing Russian football to world elite level. In the meantime Russia has been awarded the 2018 World Cup and Sorokin has been appointed general director of the organising committee.

How unpolitical can huge state-controlled companies capable of blackmailing entire nation-states actually be? How unpolitical are payrolls on which you find the likes of Gerhard Schröder, who signed up as chairman of the board for a pipeline venture controlled by Gazprom, as soon as he had left office? How can spending an estimated minimum of 50 million Euros per annum in sponsoring a sports event be a simple marketing campaign? Especially for a company that, unlike Heineken, Ford, Master Card, UniCredit and Sony, UEFA’s five other official partners, does not even reach out to end consumers that actually have a choice?

In signing the agreement with UEFA, Gazprom expressed its certainty that ‘this cooperation will improve Gazprom’s reputation and advance our breand awareness to a fundamentally new level on the global scale’. In other words such investments do not aim at something as trivial as increasing sales, but are part of a soft power strategy. The attempts to build a strong brand recognition through links with other popular brands such as the Champions League are no doubt expected to position Gazprom as just another corporate entity and ecplise the incestuous links with the Russian government and its leader.

For Clemens Tönnies, successful entrepreneur in the German meat processing industry and president of the highly popular football club Schalke 04, the fact that his players promote Gazprom on their jerseys for 15 million Euros per year, is a ‘perfectly normal business relation’. Probably as normal as the social dumping in his Westphalian slaughterhouses without minimum wage that are reported to build their benefits on the exploitation of East European workers supplied by dubious employment agencies.

Football fans are reputed for not caring where the money comes from as long as it keeps ‘their’ club competitive. True: when Gazprom – now also ‘Global Energy Partner’ of Chelsea FC, whatever that means – signed its contract with Schalke in 2006 (less than a year after the Schröder deal), there were only some mild short-lived protests among some supporter groups. The Crimea crisis may be changing this: Clemens Tönnies’ personal ‘friendship’ with Vladimir Putin – which as the FAZ reports opened doors for him to build five meat processing plants in Russia – starts to be seen as a problem rather than an asset. Supporter groups such as the influential fanzine ‘Schalke Unser’ are openly opposing a planned courtesy visit of their team to Putin. Also on their list for the next general assembly: a change in the club’s statutes, integrating a clear statement against homophobia. Which in turn would enable them to ask why Schalke works with a sponsor that belongs to a state where homophobia has become legal.

The chances of these supporter groups to actually change something are low. There is little doubt that Schalke will continue to play with Gazprom on their jerseys for forthcoming years and that the fans themselves will continue to participate in the popular annual ‘Gazprom fan clubs’ tournament. But change starts with raising awareness. And it would be a first modest success to raise awareness about the fact that some deals are not really ‘business as usual’.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Posts - No comment