German soccer stars and the politics of media representation : a case study in ethnicity and celebrity culture
This dissertation examines the (self)representation of German soccer players in social media, sports media, popular literature, and fan discourses. It emphasizes the role of ethnicity in the creation of celebrity sports branding and fan–athlete relationship. Ever since West Germany won its first FIFA World Cup in 1954, soccer has allowed for the construction of an “imagined community” in West Germany and then unified Germany. Since the 1960s, soccer culture has been increasingly intertwined with the entertainment sector, resulting in more money through advertising, merchandising and television coverage. The soccer player Franz Beckenbauer capitalized on that, becoming the first German sports celebrity, scoring endorsement deals, attending social events, and writing his autobiography. Other soccer celebrities followed, including German players mit Migrationshintergrund (a term literally meaning “migration background;” it refers to people who did not acquire German citizenship at birth or whose parents did not acquire German citizenship at birth). While there is scholarship on people mit Migrationshintergrund and sports celebrities separately, there are not many studies about soccer celebrities mit Migrationshintergrund. My dissertation analyzes how soccer players like Lukas Podolski, Jérôme Boateng, and Mesut Özil use their Migrationshintergrund to further their celebrity status and thereby their brand(s). I argue that their branding is governed by fan expectations, masculinity norms, entrepreneurialism, and specific models of migration discourses.