The Kinder Schokoladenriegel is among Germany’s favourite chocolate treats. Usually, the candy bar is sold in packages featuring a kid that has remarkable similarities to Julian Nagelsmann, but the makers of the candy bar had decided to do something special ahead of the upcoming EUROs. Ferrero put childhood photos of eleven current German internationals on their boxes in order to show support for die Nationalmannschaft.
It might not be the most creative of campaigns. It might seem a bit dull and honestly, it is just another plot to sell more unhealthy shit to people who love to eat unhealthy shit. And it is supposed to get kids crying in supermarkets, forcing their parents to allow them to become addicts to chocolate at an early age.
So far, so good.
However, this rather benign campaign managed to make national headlines in Germany when the Facebook group Pegida Bodensee published a picture of the candy boxes featuring Jerome Boateng and Ilkay Gündogan. In the post the group wrote in indignation:“It has gotten to this.”
The chapter of Pegida, which is an abbreviation for “patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West,” couldn’t believe that two children who weren’t white were put on the cover of a box filled with German candy bars. The person who published the photo on Facebook had taken it at an angle, which removed the fact that the pictures were part of a marketing campaign.
The group Pegida has chapters all around Europe now, but its stronghold is in the city of Dresden. At most, 25,000 people joined into the protest spearheaded by the controversial movement. As its selling point, the group calls itself “concerned citizens” who have lost faith in their government and the press. However, despite Pegida membership consisting solely of white people, the group does not consider itself to be racist.
The leadership of Pegida distanced themselves from their chapter’s Facebook post after the media headlines had started to put a negative spotlight on the group once again.
Social media reacts
The post was eventually removed as it sparked a lively debate within social media and generated a buzz within the German press. Several people posted pictures of themselves as kids using the hashtag #cutesolidarity to show their opposition to Pegida Bodensee‘s point-of-view.
Other creative approaches included the suggestion of putting children with a migration background on all food packaging in order to starve the movement to death.
(Wenn wir einfach überall Einwandererkinder draufdrucken, können wir Pegida aushungern.)
— Frau Diener (@fraudiener) May 25, 2016
Boateng unwanted as a neighbour
After the media storm about the Facebook post had cooled down, another storm brewed on Sunday. The vice-leader of the political party AfD (Alternative for Germany), Alexander Gauland, struck the same note as Pegida Bodensee earlier this week. Talking to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Gauland said about Jerome Boateng:
“People do like him as a footballer, but they don’t necessarily want him to be their neighbour.”
On top of that, Gauland chose to expand his point-of-view, by mentioning that people find it troubling “that a religion that is foreign to us could become more important than our western tradition.” Somehow, the former editor of a newspaper hadn’t done his research before opening his mouth, as Boateng clearly is a Christian who chooses to show of his religion in public.
Gauland’s party has made headlines with racist remarks over the last few month. One of their representatives was even in favour of shooting immigrants crossing the boarder if they did so illegally. Of course, the party has at all times stated that all of these remarks were taken out of context in order to allow the press to put the AfD into a bad light. Despite everyting, the party is currently polling at 12% in national polls.
Gauland himself felt the strong need to comment on his earlier words upon the release of the interview. The quote was taken out of context, according to the 75-year-old, who said that the remark was made during the background interview (usually off the record), and that he was trying to describe “the attitude that certain people have. I was not insulting Mr. Boateng at any given point”.
Furthermore, Gauland went as far as saying that Boateng should be congratulated for his successful integration into German society. Why somebody who was born in Berlin to a German mother and to a Ghanaian father needed to make a special effort to integrate into German society, Gauland didn’t explain in his statement.
Both the political sphere and the world of German football condemned the statements of the 75-year-old. Benedikt Höwedes found fitting words when he exclaimed on Facebook: “If you want to win titles for Germany you need such a neighbour.”
Shades of the past
Boateng himself recently stated that he would like to someday become the captain of the German national team, telling FAZ:
“To be the first coloured person to become captain of the national team would be a strong signal outward in terms of integration, and I’d be proud of it.”
Pegida, or at least parts of its membership, are clearly opposed to Boateng or any other footballer of a different skin colour or ethnicity becoming German national team players. Somehow these people seem to be scared by the fact that 26% of the World Cup winning team had a migration background. Gauland has, in the past, been criticised for his views on immigration and integration, even by his own daughter.
This week’s racist comments don’t represent a new trend, unfortunately. Back in 2006, a likeness of Gerald Asamoah, the first coloured player to compete for Germany, was put up on a banner created by the neo-nazi party NPD. That banner stated in no uncertain terms that the party of right-wing lunatics didn’t want Asamoah as part of the team or as part of German society. In that regard, Pegida Bodensee‘s Facebook post and Alexander Gauland’s comments shouldn’t come as a shock.
As it turns out, Germany is still a country where footballers at times are judged on the colour of their skin or their religion by a small, yet politically increasingly significant, segment of the population.
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Header photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images