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Michael Horeni’s book ‘Die Brüder Boateng. Drei deutsche Karrieren’

Michael Horeni, sports editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), has written a book on the famous football-playing Boateng brothers. In his book, the author tells the story about George, Kevin-Prince and Jérôme who grew up together in Berlin as the sons of Prince Boateng from Ghana and two German mothers. He also writes about how the brothers' different careers were launched in a fenced-in concrete area their ‘football cage’ in the locality of Wedding in Berlin.

‘I come from Wedding. That’s where you grow up to be a drug dealer, a gangster or a footballer,’ Kevin-Prince Boateng once said in an interview at the start of his career in professional football. At the time, he probably did not know that he would soon acquire the reputation of being a highly talented, but impetuous and aggressive player – often called Ramboateng – and would never be able to shake this perception.

The most notorious foul in football

Like his two brothers, Kevin Boateng was only a child when he played in the Hertha BSC youth team, but was eventually thrown off the team. After spells with Tottenham Hotspurs and Borussia Dortmund, he participated in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, as a member of the Ghanaian team. It was here, he is quoted as saying in Horeni’s book ‘Die Brüder Boateng’, that he first found the recognition that he had fought for in vain in Germany.

It was in Germany, his home country, that he had recently committed a notorious foul against Michael Ballack, the captain of the German team, injuring him so seriously that Ballack was no longer able to participate in the World Cup. With this foul, which Boateng himself claims was not deliberate, he also relegated himself permanently to the sidelines, at least in the world of German football.

That he was now the public enemy for many football fans in Germany is one thing. That a ‘clearly racist tone had crept into’ the debate over the foul, as Horeni laments, and that Boateng was discriminated against, abused and threatened in the worst possible way, is, however, a scandal with consequences that reach much further.

Brothers Boateng: an example of football and integration

Kevin Boateng plays for AC Milan today. His younger brother, Jérôme Boateng, who kicks the ball for Bayern Munich and for the German national team, is usually treated by the media as the gentler, more sociable footballer and human being, and is therefore readily cited as an example of the successful integration of young migrants in Germany. In his book, Michael Horeni also addresses the question of whether Jérôme had it easier than Kevin and George because he had enjoyed a more sheltered upbringing in genteel Wilmersdorf in Berlin, and not in the problem locality of Wedding, and because he had his brothers, who were his role models, who motivated him in the football cage and tried to protect him from marginalisation and conflict.

The book traces the different paths the brothers’ lives have taken, but does not oversimplify things by taking sides or by exploiting common misconceptions. In a clear and meticulous manner, Horeni sheds light on the social and family circumstances in the brothers’ early lives. The author bases his analysis on numerous conversations with teachers, friends, and family members. For instance, he tries to explain why the eldest brother, George Boateng, considered by experts to be at least as talented as Kevin and Jérôme, did not succeed in making the leap into professional football, and how he slipped into a life of crime, but how he has now pulled himself together again. He now lives in Berlin where he breeds dogs.

The author

Michael Horeni, author of ‘Die Brüder Boateng’, is sports editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (picture by Julia Zimmermann).

Behind the scenes of professional football

In addition to presenting the Boateng family history, Michael Horeni, who knows professional football better than most, gives the reader an insider’s view of the world of football that remains hidden to the average fan sitting in front of the television or watching in the stadium. He writes knowledgeably about how the different professional clubs promote young talent and about how some clubs are more careful than others in handling young players.

And so, from 260 fascinating pages that speak of much more than just football emerges a diverse and touching portrait of three famous young migrants who come from a broken family and who sought — and are still seeking — their luck in Germany. Read for yourself and see whether the brothers Boatengs have found it.

August 2012

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