August 19, 2017

German Born – but Turkish at Heart

Bild have recently reported that Mainz playmaker Yunus Malli has chosen to represent Turkey ahead of Germany at the senior international level, this despite Malli representing the World Champions at every age level up to U-21. As recently as this past summer he played for the German team that reached the semifinals of the European Under-21 Championship.

Malli, the son of Turkish immigrants, was recently quoted in “The Habertürk” as saying “I have always said I would love to play for the Turkish national team”. Turkish national team coach Fatih Terim was also quoted as saying “Yunus is a player we have been scouting for a long time and after our meeting today he made it clear that he wants to play for Turkey.”

With Malli making the decision not to represent Germany and with these two great footballing nations so deeply and historically intertwined going as far back as the early 20th century and the Ottoman Empire, we take a look at some other Turkish players who although they were eligible, have also chosen not to represent Die Nationalmannschaft.

Nuri Şahin

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was born to Turkish parents in Lüdenscheid, West Germany. Şahin never player played for Germany at any level, opting for Turkey from U16 levels onwards.

Şahin admitted that the decision to play for Turkey was simply down to sentiment, saying “I was actually born in Germany but feel more Turkish.”

The former Real Madrid and Liverpool playmaker has made 42 appearances for Turkey; he is currently the youngest player to have debuted for the senior side and also the youngest to have scored a goal, ironically scoring on his debut against none other than…. Germany!

Hakan Çalhanoğlu

The man FourFourTwo recently named as the Europe’s best free kick taker is another who although born in Germany has represented the Turkish football association his whole life.

Born in Mannheim, the attacking midfielder made his senior level debut in a World Cup qualifier in 2013 against Andorra, coming on for the last 10 mins, as of today he has scored four goals in 13 appearances for the national team. The former Karlsruher SC, Hamburger SV and current Bayer Leverkusen maestro explained his reason for choosing Turkey by saying “It’s thanks to the Germans that I became a footballer. But playing for the Turkish national team is an honour. I want to be Turkey’s Mesut Özil”

Hamit & Halil Altintop

The magical Turkish twins were born in Gelsenkirchen, a football crazy city in the Ruhr district of Germany. The brothers both started their career at SG Wattenscheid 09. Halil moved on to play for such clubs as Schalke 04, Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt and FC Augsburg, while Hamit has played for the likes of Schalke 04, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Galatasary.

Hamit, a combative midfielder, and Halil, an attacking midfielder/forward, both decided to play for the homeland of their parents for the sake of the family. Although they admit they have German habits, they feel Turkish at heart “Where it matters”. Between the brothers they have earned 120 caps and scored 15 goals. (Hamit 82 (7) & Halil 38 (8))

Halil disclosed in an interview with the German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” that when he was 17, he had in fact considered whether he should play for Germany. Brother Hamit stopped these plans immediately: “I simply asked him: Hey, do you really want to play against me?”

Yildiray Basturk

Yildiray Basturk was born in Herne, West Germany, he is another who began his career at SG Wattenscheid 09. He is probably best known for his time at Bayer Leverkusen, helping them reach the Champions League Final in 2002.

Basturk, whose father was an immigrant Turkish coalminer who settled in the Ruhr area insisted his son play for his nation of origin.

The diminutive midfielder said of Turkish players growing up in Germany “I started to play football at the age of five and it helps us to play like German footballers. It’s very true, players who were born and raised in Germany have contributed a lot to Turkish football,” Basturk said. “We have a lot of players in the national squad who have played their career in Germany and that has made a big difference.”

Basturk’s time with the national team came to an end when was left out of Turkey’s 23-man squad for Euro 2008, he said he would never play for the national team as long as Fatih Terim remains as the coach. He earned 49 caps and scored 3 goals.

Ömer Toprak

The Bayer Leverkusen centre back was born in Ravensburg and began his career at local club FV Ravensburg. He is the only player on this list who represented Germany at under age level. He played three games and scored one goal for the German U-19 team as they won the 2008 UEFA U-19 Championship.

The no-nonsense defender was named in the Turkish squad for the first time by then Head Coach Gus Hiddink for the EURO 2012 qualifiers against Germany and Azerbaijan. On his decision to switch allegiances Toprak said “It was an incredibly difficult decision and I thought about it for a long time. After talking to my friends and family I’ve finally decided to play for Turkey, I know I’ve got a lot to thank the DFB for but deep down I feel I am Turkish. My heart decided in the end,”

Toprak is currently refusing to play for the national team and has ruled out a return to the squad in the near future as long as fellow international Gokhan Tore (ironically another German born Turkish international) is called up. Toprak and Leverkusen teammate Hakan Çalhanoğlu allege that they were threatened with a gun by a friend of their fellow international.

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Part time football writer - From Bray, County Wicklow Ireland You can follow me on twitter - @jay_walker_83