Germany has seen two of their greatest ever players retire following their most recent tournaments. Philipp Lahm left the international game following the 2014 World Cup victory, and Bastian Schweinsteiger departed after the recent Euro 2016 disappointment. Now, with Germany heading into World Cup Qualification for Russia 2018, manager Jogi Löw will be naming a new captain soon.
Despite the departures of several other high profile players over the last couple of years, Löw does have a few players to choose from to make this selection. Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, and Sami Khedira would all make excellent captains. However, none of these players should be given the armband on a permanent basis.
It is in my humble opinion that the next captain of Germany should be Jerome Boateng.
Boateng’s skill level cannot be questioned. The Bayern Munich centerback is unquestionably one of the sport’s elite defenders, if not the best in the world. He was named to the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament coming out of Euro 2016. Boateng was also recently named Germany Footballer of the Year by a wide margin, becoming the first defender to win the award since Jürgen Kohler in 1997.
Since joining from Manchester City in the summer of 2011, Bayern supporters have watched Boateng grow from a one-dimensional, mistake-prone player to a centerback that is as comfortable defending the world’s greatest attacking players as he is dribbling into the opponent’s penalty area.
Under Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola, Boateng turned into a sponge soaking up all of the knowledge that the two legends had to teach him. Under Guardiola, while all of the attention was given to the attacking players, it was Boateng that anchored the entire team. His ability to spray pinpoint passes across the field from the centerback position allowed the Bayern midfielders the freedom to find huge pockets of space that opened the field up even more.
Every single mistake has been a learning process for Boateng. Every roadblock that has been placed in front of him has been cast aside as he continues on his quest for excellence.
He is a great player.
Boateng represents the “new” Germany that everyone has come to know over the last several years. His mother is a white woman from Germany, while his father is a black man from Ghana who immigrated to Germany.
The German national team is now truly a representative look at the nation itself. Players representing Die Mannschaft in recent years have parents from Spain (Mario Gomez), Turkey (Emre Can, İlkay Gündoğan), Côte d'Ivoire (Jonathan Tah), Tunisia (Sami Khedira), Senegal (Leroy Sané), Sierra Leone (Antonio Rüdiger), Morocco (Karim Bellarabi), Poland (Lukas Podolski), and even a third generation Turkish-German (Mesut Özil). A racially and ethnically diverse Germany is here to stay.
As more immigrants and refugees have come into Europe in recent years, many of these countries have seen the rise of ultra-nationalist, racist political parties. Germany hasn’t been exempt in this area, and it’s even touched Boateng.
In May, one of the leaders of Germany’s racist AFD party said that “people like him [Boateng] as a football player. But they don’t want to have a Boateng as their neighbor”. Why? Boateng is the son of an immigrant, and he’s black.
The German populace responded to the statement with nothing but support for Boateng.
“Jerome, be our neighbor”
Few countries can boast the list of captains that German can, even if you only take into account the last three decades: Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff, Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, Philipp Lahm, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Since Schweinsteiger’s international retirement, many have been speculating that Neuer is the favorite to be the next captain. In recent weeks, however, Boateng’s name has been coming up more often. With the team and country becoming more diverse than ever before, it’s the perfect time for a person of color to wear the armband.
“Yes, it would definitely be a statement,” Boateng told Bayerischer Rundfunk when asked about the possibilities of becoming Germany’s first ever black captain. “Sure, it would definitely be something special, something new for society.”
This decision is as much a political decision as it is a sporting decision. It always has been, and it always will be. This time, however, the DFB have an opportunity to make a statement to not only Germany but to the rest of Europe and the world with four simple words.
Jerome Boateng. Germany Captain.