Survey finds fifth of Germans would prefer more White players on their national soccer team

Berlin — A recent survey conducted for a sports program that airs on a regional public broadcaster in Germany revealed that one in five Germans (21% of respondents) would prefer to see more White players on the German national soccer team. The survey conducted for Western Germany’s WDR network’s “Sport Inside” show has drawn sharp criticism, with the national team’s coach Julian Nagelsmann among those expressing shock.

National team player Joshua Kimmich called the survey question “absolute nonsense” and “racist.”

Kimmich stressed the power of soccer as a unifier across nations, races, and religions and expressed his appreciation for the diversity of the team.

“I would really, really miss a lot of players if they weren’t here. That [survey] is absolutely racist and has no place in our dressing room,” he said at a news conference at a German training camp for the UEFA Champions League tournament in Bavaria.

National team in Herzogenaurach - Press conference
Germany’s national soccer team coach Julian Nagelsmann (left) speaks to his players during a training session, June 2, 2024, before the European Championship test match between Germany and Ukraine, in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria.

Federico Gambarini/picture alliance/Getty

His coach, Nagelsmann, echoed that critique.

“It’s absolutely racist and madness that a public broadcaster asks such a question,” he said. “We need to be aware of the plight of people who have sought refuge from war, economic hardships, and environmental disasters.”

The survey was conducted as part of a documentary titled “Unity and Justice and Diversity,” which explores the rising representation of migrants on Germany’s national team over recent decades. WDR’s head of sport, Karl Valks, explained that the survey aimed to provide solid data on the issue, and while he also expressed dismay at the results, he said they reflected the current social situation in Germany.

The majority of respondents (65%) disagreed with the statement that they would prefer more White players on the national team. Two-thirds of those surveyed were positive about the team’s diverse composition, with 66% appreciating the inclusion of soccer players with a foreign background.

The survey also found that 17% of respondents felt it was a shame that the current captain of the German national soccer team, Ilkay Gündoğan, has Turkish roots. But 67% disagreed with that statement.

The controversy over the survey has sparked a broader discussion about racism and diversity in Germany, highlighting an ongoing debate about how to handle immigration and migrants’ integration into society. 

The timing of the survey is also significant, as Germany prepares to host the UEFA Euro championship from June 14 – July 14.

“I’m committed to my team, which comprises players of diverse backgrounds, including Black players. Any player capable of top-level performance is welcome to join the national team and contribute to their country,” Nagelsmann said during the press conference at the training camp.

The “Unity and Justice and Diversity” documentary will air on June 5 on WDR, which is a regional branch of Germany’s ARD national broadcaster.

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