Turkish footballers playing in the Bundesliga is a fairly common sight, which, when you consider the history of Turks in post-war Germany, shouldn’t be too surprising.
In the midst of the West German economic upturn of the 1960’s, the country was suffering from a severe lack of labourers to meet demand. To rectify this, the West German government, through various arrangements and agreements with various other European nations, began to admit large amounts of guest workers into the country; the vast majority of these workers came from Turkey.
Many of these Turkish migrant workers ended up staying in West Germany and eventually would bring their families over and eventually become permanent residents. It is the offspring of these initial migrant workers that we see lining up for Bundesliga sides week in and week out.
Some of these German-born players have gone on to represent Germany at an international level, including players like Mehmet Scholl, Mesut Özil, Ilkay Gündoǧan, Serdar Tasci, and Levin Öztunali to name but a few.
Özuntali, for those who aren’t aware, is also the grandson of Germany and Hamburg legend Uwe Seeler. Others — the Altintop twins, Hakan Çalhanoǧlu, Mehmet Ekici, Nuri Şahin, and Ömer Toprak — while being born in Germany, have gone on to represent their ancestral homeland internationally.
It hasn’t been one-way traffic however.
Over the years a handful of Germans have gone to ply their footballing trade in Turkey. Some as recent as the last couple of days.
After weeks of speculation, Lukas Podolski has finally made the switch from London (via Milan) to Istanbul, signing a lucrative three-year deal with Turkish giants Galatasaray. The former Köln and Bayern striker is reportedly earning upwards of €4.5 million per season, roughly €1.25 million more than he was making playing for Arsenal.
Joining Prinz Poldi in making a recent move to the west bank of the Bosphorus is ex-Hoffenheimer Andreas Beck. The right fullback inked a three-year deal with city rivals Beşiktaş, albeit on a more-modest wage one would assume.
It will be interesting to see how Podolski and Beck will fare with their new clubs, especially in head-to-head matches. But before the pair write the Turkish chapters of their personal footballing history, let’s take a look at some interesting cases of Germans playing in Turkey.
Detlef Müller/Metin Mert – Goalkeeper
Sariyer SK 1990-95, Trabzonspor 1995-97, Kocaelispor 1997-2002, Konyaspor 2002-03, Antalyaspor 2003-04
Müller was born in Duisburg but played his senior football in Germany with VfL Bochum from 1987-1990. He would move to Turkey to embark on a journeyman career that would span twenty-four years and five different teams. After his stint with Sariyer, Müller became a Turkish citizen, converted to Islam, and changed his name to Metin Mert.
After his retirement from playing in 2004, Mert remained active in Turkish football as a goalkeeper coach for several clubs. He is currently the goalkeeping coach at Galatasaray.
Torsten Gütschow – Striker
By the time Torsten Gütschow joined Galatasaray at the end of 1992, he was already an established footballer, having spent the previous twelve seasons at Dynamo Dresden and having been named the DDR Oberliga’s player of the year for the final three seasons of the league’s existence.
Gütschow wasn’t the only German at Gala at the time, as he joined fellow East German Falko Götz and Reinhard Stumpf, all who played under German manager Karl-Heinz Feldkamp.
While Gütschow would only end up playing in Istanbul for six months, he was a solid contributor for his club; Galatasaray would go on to win the league and cup double that season.
After Gütschow returned to Germany, he played in short stints with Carl Zeiss Jena, Hannover 94, and Chemnitzer FC before ending his career back with Dynamo Dresden.
Outside of football, Gütschow’s life was a rather interesting one. As a young man, he was “enlisted” by the Stasi to become an informant for the secret police for a short while. The reality appears to be that he was blackmailed into compliance, which was common practice at the time.
Harald “Toni” Schumacher – Goalkeeper
Twice World Cup runner-up (‘82 and ‘86) and EURO 1980 champion, Harald Schumacher played the vast majority of his professional career (1972-1987) at 1. FC Köln, amassing nearly 550 appearances with the Billy Goats in all competitions, winning the DFB Pokal on three occasions and the 1977-78 Bundesliga title.
It was comments in his autobiography, Anpfiff, released in 1987 that precipitated a move away from Köln, however. In it, Schumacher made allegations (all of which were unproven) of rampant improprieties by his fellow teammates, the most serious of which were claims of blood doping. In light of this, Köln cut ties with Schumacher, who signed with Schalke for the next season.
After a disastrous one-year stint with Die Königsblauen in which Schalke conceded 84 goals (Schumacher was in goal for 70 of these) and finished bottom of the table, Schumacher made his way to Istanbul to play for Fenerbahçe, where he was named club captain. “Toni” would play for three seasons for Fener, winning the Turkish league title in his first season and finishing runner-up the following season. He would stay one more year in Turkey before moving back to Germany to play for FC Bayern, but would retire after one season and only eight appearances for Die Roten.
Three years later, while working as a goalkeeper coach-player for Borussia Dortmund, Schumacher was subbed on late in a meaningless match vs SC Freiburg ensuring that he would get his name on the Bundesliga trophy for a second time.
Presently, Schumacher is a member of the executive board at 1. FC Köln. Who says you can never go back home?
One would be remiss if that night in Seville wasn’t brought up, but I’ll just let you Google that one.
Dirk Schuster – Defender
The inclusion of Dirk Schuster here is slightly an afterthought, but perhaps topical.
After a respectable club career in Germany with the likes of Magdeburg, Karlsruhe, and Köln, Schuster moved to Antalyaspor in 1999 where he played alongside fellow German Maurizio Gaudino (who himself stayed for three seasons). He would stay for only one season, which saw Antalyaspor finish in eleventh place in the league, but did manage to qualify for the UEFA Cup by virtue of their loss to Galatasaray in the Turkish Cup final.
After his Turkey stint, he was mostly a journeyman, playing in Austria and then the lower divisions of Germany before retiring from playing and becoming a coach.
Bundesliga fans will definitely know Schuster’s name as he’s been the architect behind the incredible rise of SV Darmstadt, who will be playing in the German top flight next season.
Schuster is also counted among the many players from the former DDR to play at least some football in Turkey.
Robert Enke – Goalkeeper
Robert Enke’s name conjures up images of one of, if not the most, tragic moments in German footballing history. Enke, another player from the former East Germany, played his youth football for his hometown Carl Zeiss Jena before making the jump to the senior squad in the 1995-96 season. He moved the next season to Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he spent most of his time with the youth team to gain experience. It was during his time at ‘Gladbach when Enke was first incorporated into the German National Team youth program.
Enke would depart Mönchengladbach in 1999 and head to Portuguese giants Benfica, where things for him were quite difficult. In spite of the failures of the team as a whole, Enke’s spell at Benfica garnered him attention from some of the biggest clubs in Europe. In 2002, he left for Spanish giants FC Barcelona on a free transfer. Enke, however, would soon find out that playing for the big clubs brought on the greatest of pressures.
His debut for Barcelona was a disaster as the club were knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by a club from Spain’s third tier. Enke would only play in one league match for Barça before being loaned out to Fenerbahçe for the beginning of the 2003-04 season.
If his debut for Barcelona could be categorised as disastrous, than Enke’s debut (and only match played) for Fener was nothing short of cataclysmic, as his side were thumped 3-0 at home by Istanbulspor.
There are those that view this particular match in Turkey as the beginning of Enke’s horrible downward spiral. The passage below, dated the day after the loss against Istanbulspor, is from Robert Reng’s biography A Life Too Short and was pulled directly from Enke’s personal diary:
I’m finished. We lost the game 0-3. Didn’t look good from the first goal.
After that I was very nervous in the second half. Was mocked by some
of the fans . . . Would like to get away from Istanbul, do a proper course
of therapy at last. At any rate, it can’t go on. Understood yesterday that
I’m simply not up to the demands…Terri (Enke’s wife) just rang and
had to put the phone down again to cry. I feel helpless and anxious. I
don’t leave the hotel room, I’m afraid of people’s eyes. I’d just like to
live without anxiety and nerves.
Enke would move back to Germany where he saw success with Hannover 96, and his stature with the German National team grew to the point where he was looking more and more likely the successor to Jens Lehmann after the EURO 2008 tournament.
As is well known, the story instead has the saddest of sad endings. After suffering through many bouts of depression and the death of his infant daughter Lena, Robert Enke, on the tenth of November 2009, took his own life by walking in front of a train not far from where he lived.
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