One day after Michael Ballack was unveiled by Bayer Leverkusen, marking the German international's return to the Bundesliga and his former club, the midfielder's agent and long-time adviser Michael Becker has made headlines for saying the German national team that excelled in South Africa was made up of a "bunch of gays."
Becker made the comments to online magazine Der Spiegel writer Alexander Osang, part of which appeared in Osang's essay Ambassadors of a New Germany.
Kate Connolly, summarizing Osang's article as well as comments the author has subsequently made to the press, notes the interview occurred prior to the World Cup:
In an essay entitled New German Men, Aleksander Osang recounts an interview he had with Becker prior to the World Cup in which the agent allegedly told him which of the players in the team were gay. He later said that a former national player was ready to reveal the "bunch of gays" in the German team, according to Osang. Asked about the sexuality of one of the newer players, Becker, who is a lawyer by profession, referred to him as being "half gay".
Becker attributes the new style of German soccer exhibited in South Africa to player sexuality:
Osang went on to say that Becker put the new adroit, lighter and elegant style of play that has become a trademark of trainer Joachim Löw's players down to their homosexuality, in contrast to the typically more aggressive and offensive German style of past years, but suggested they played too delicately to assure themselves a place in the final.
In his essay, Osang talks about the reaction of the German media to Becker's intimation a former national team member was set to reveal the homosexuality of current team members:
He talked a lot about people who were envious of his client, because they were supposedly mediocre, ugly, untalented, bureaucratic, provincial, unmanly or gay. He told me some unbelievable stories, which I wrote down on my pad of paper. Becker didn't seem to mind, perhaps because he assumed that they would never make it into print anyway, or that they were already common knowledge. A few days later, on the sidelines of a farewell match for footballer Bernd Schneider at Bayer Leverkusen, Becker told a group of agents and journalists in the Bayer clubhouse that there was a former player on the national team who was about to go public with the names of "the gay combo." I expected my fellow journalists to be all ears, but they seemed relatively blasé about Becker's remark. It seemed that every sports journalist was already familiar with the alleged homosexual conspiracy swirling around German coach Joachim Löw's team. The rumors accompanied the team to South Africa. They are apparently part of the package.
Ballack's new club has been quick to rebuke Becker's sentiments, saying, in a statement from the club, "At Bayer Leverkusen we have absolutely no resentment towards homosexuals."
Becker has since tried to clarify his comments:
Becker has neither denied nor confirmed that he made the comments, but has since said he was "misunderstood" and that the interview was not "authorised", a common journalistic practice in Germany whereby the interviewee has the right to change his remarks after the interview.
Osang's reporting comes months after Rudi Assauer, a former defender for Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen and coach at Bremen and Schalke, sparked controversy by claiming homosexuals had no place in football:
"Perhaps they [gays] are OK in other sports but not in football. If a player came to me and said he was gay I would say to him: 'You have shown courage'. But then I would tell him to find something else to do," Assauer is quoted as saying by German magazine Spiegel.
"That's because those who out themselves always end up busted by it, ridiculed by their fellow players and by people in the stands. We should spare them these witch-hunts.
Assauer also admitted to telling a former masseur at Werder Bremen, whom he discovered to be gay, to look for another job.
"When I was in Bremen, I heard that our masseur was gay. So I went up to him and said: 'Look, son, do me a favour - look for another job.'," he declared.