The Bothersome Business of the Boateng Brothers

23 Jun



Kevin-Prince Boateng

Jerome Boateng

Today Ghana will face Germany in what looks to be the best chance that an African team has of making it out of the group stages. This match up is more than just a clash of one of the strongest European sides with one of the strongest African sides; it is also likely to be a clash of brothers. Jerome Boateng and Kevin-Prince Boateng are half-brothers who are of Ghanaian descent but were born and raised in Germany. The game on the 23rd will see the brothers on opposite ends of the pitch, as Jerome will be playing for Germany while Kevin-Prince will be playing for Ghana. The battle of the Boateng brothers has been highly anticipated and has received a fair amount of press. I would like to critically examine one article that was printed on Spiegel Online, a German news source, titled “The Boateng Brothers’ World Cup Duel” from 4/16/2010. The article basically tries to show how based on Kevin-Prince Boateng’s personality he would be better suited playing for Ghana. There is a sharp contrast between the half-brothers, Jerome is rational while Kevin-Prince is irrational, Jerome is a hard worker while Kevin-Prince is a hothead, and Jerome is a team player while Kevin-Prince is selfish. After reading this article I highly doubt that Germans felt they got the lesser of the two Boatengs. 


 Jerome Boateng:

 “Jerome Boateng has four tattoos… He likes to listen to music from Ghana, because it sounds cheerful…”

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince Boateng has 13 tattoos… he prefers music by German rapper Bushido, whose songs are about whores and anal sex.”

“Like Jerome, Kevin-Prince was born in Berlin. Most of what he knows about Ghana, his father’s country, comes from stories he has heard. Nevertheless, he says: ‘I’m proud to be an African.’”

Comment: in the opening lines of the article the stark contrast between Jerome and Kevin-Prince is clear. Based on the number of tattoos and the music tastes of the brothers, it can be ascertained that one is “good” and one is “evil”, its as simple as black and white. Does that make Jerome white? Perhaps that is what the purpose of this article is, to show that even though Jerome Boateng is black, he is a “good” black and possesses all of the desirable characteristics of a white person, especially when compared with his brother.

Choices to make

 The author met up with both players to talk with them about how they ended up choosing to play for the country that they did.

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince walks through the lobby of the Hilton Hotel in Southampton, wearing baggy jeans and clunky sneakers. Kevin-Prince Boateng had played 41 times for the German Football Association’s junior teams. In 2006, a jury selected him as the most promising new player of the year. Kevin-Prince looks around the lobby, searching for his manager. The two men sit down in armchairs. Kevin-Prince pulls his mobile phone from his jacket pocket and stares absent-mindedly at the screen. His manager says: ‘If Ghana wins the World Cup, the whole continent will be on fire. And Kevin will be a star.’ That’s the plan.”

Jerome Boateng:

“He smells of cologne, but not overpoweringly, and he has a diamond stud in each ear. He orders an arugula salad and a bottle of mineral water. He speaks quietly and seems almost shy. ‘I never thought of playing for Ghana,’ he says. ‘it doesn’t make any sense. Germany is my home. I like the people here, and the mentality.’”

Comment: The details that the author chooses to include say a lot. Kevin-Prince is wearing baggy jeans and stares absent-mindedly at his phone. Jerome on the other hand, smells of cologne, but not overpoweringly, he is sophisticated. He orders a salad and mineral water and speaks softly, he’s delicate, nothing to be afraid of. Kevin-Prince’s manager makes it quite simple, he is playing for Ghana but interested in his own success first. Jerome on the other hand remains loyal to Germany because he likes the people and the mentality. Hopefully after reading this article those people with their mentalities will like him.

Different personalities and playing styles

 “The half-brothers’ different personalites are reflected in their playing styles. Jerome is a disciplined defender, keeping track of things and remaining calm when on the ball. Kevin-Prince can control and finish, but his actions are more physical, almost angry. Last year he kicked a player on the opposing team in the temple.” (Kevin-Prince also injured one of Germany’s star players Michael Ballack just weeks before the start of the World Cup, an injury that dashed Ballack’s hopes of playing this time around.)

Kevin-Prince Boateng:

“Kevin-Prince, Jerome’s half-brother, visited often when they were growing up. ‘Kevin was Jerome’s idol,’ says Martina Boateng [Jerome’s mother]. She rolls her eyes, as if it were something she doesn’t like to think about. ‘I really like Kevin. He’s funny, a clown. He loves to make people laugh. But he can’t accept a subordinate role, he has a big mouth and he doesn’t obey the rules. That always comes through.” When the boys were younger, she feared that Kevin would be a bad influence on her son.”

“Martina Boateng puts on her coat. She prefers not to comment on Kevin-Prince’s decision to play for Ghana. All she says is: ‘Kevin comes from Wedding. I admire him for having fought his way out of there. Wedding is a poor Berlin neighborhood where foreigners make up a third of the residents. The unemployment rate is above 15 percent, 15,000 crimes are recorded every year, and the number of welfare recipients is high.”

Jerome Boateng:

“For a time, Jerome adopted a sort of affected immigrant dialect, speaking in rudimentary sentences without articles. But that was the extent of his rebelliousness. Today Jerome is the epitome of the modern professional athlete. He doesn’t drink and he doesn’t smoke.”

Comment: Jerome defends, Kevin-Prince attacks. Jerome defends his right to be a professional athlete and to be chosen for Germany’s World Cup squad by looking after his image and staying “clean”. Kevin-Prince attacks, he’s after glory one way or another, and his tactics may be deemed offensive in more ways than one. Kevin-Prince’s rags to riches story is hardly new in the football world and neither is the assumption that growing up in a rough neighborhood translates into a rough style of play. I’m sure that it took a great deal of confidence to convince himself that he was talented enough to play professionally, to escape the “ghetto”. I’m sure there were plenty of people who told him it would never happen, that he was a fool to believe such things, and I bet there were times when he believed them. If Kevin-Prince comes off as over-confident, maybe it’s because he had to be. If he can’t accept a subordinate role in football maybe it’s because he grew up in a subordinate role in society and now that he’s had a taste of what its like to live as something other than a second class citizen, he’s reluctant to let himself slip into the backseat in case the driver decides to make a U-turn back towards Wedding. But, this aggressive side should fit in perfect on the Ghanaian squad, right? After all, they’re African, right? I’m surprised they’ve even found time to put together a football squad, there’s a war going on there, right? The article implies that Jerome’s discipline and ability to keep track of things and remain calm when on the ball is German whereas Kevin-Prince is physical, almost angry, which is clearly African.

Boateng men

 The article goes on to interview Kevin-Prince’s brother George and Prince Boateng, the father of the Boateng brothers.

“George Boateng is Kevin-Prince’s older brother and Jerome’s other half-brother. He was the terror of the streets as a teenager. ‘I got into a lot of trouble. Fights, probation. I had a short fuse, and I was a bad role model for Kevin. He can thank me for his reputation.’”

“He prefers to talk about Jerome, his half-brother. ‘Jerome is my haven. Everyone calms down when he walks into the room. Kevin is ambitious. Jerome is a perfectionist. He lives for success.’ George is Jerome’s harshest critic and his biggest fan. They speak on the telephone every day, discussing the last training session and analyzing moves ‘Jerome is like a sponge. He absorbs everything.’”

“Prince Boateng travels to Ghana twice a year. The African side of Jerome and Kevin-Prince, he says, is their suppleness, their looseness. ‘Both of them are great dancers.’ And what’s German about them? He thinks for a moment. ‘Jerome is punctual and reliable, which is something you can’t really say about Kevin.”

“He says he lost contact with Kevin-Prince when his son went to England three years ago. Kevin-Prince spent a lot of time in nightclubs and going to parties. He bought three cars on a single day, a Lamborghini, a Hummer and a Cadillac Oldtimer. He also bought a new wardrobe: 160 pairs of shoes, 200 hats and 20 leather jackets.”

Comment: This section of the article feels like a search for the source of Kevin-Prince’s faults. Is it his brother George who made him this way? Is it his strained relationship with his father? It may very well have been both of those things on top of a million others but I think it is a bit ridiculous that the article has portrayed him in such a manner that by the time the reader gets this far into the article he/she has begun to ask themselves, what made him that way? What went wrong in this boy’s life? The explanation offered is that the prominent male figure in Kevin-Prince’s life when he was growing up was his brother George who admits that he was a bad role-model, a delinquent even. Then the article exposes Kevin-Prince’s shopping list, perhaps there are some clues there. Personally, I find Kevin-Prince’s wasteful spending just that, wasteful, but I respect the fact that he has every right to spend the money he earns in any way he sees fit. If Jerome is a sponge then what does that make Kevin-Prince? One of those steel wool things? Because he seems to rub everyone the wrong way.

A score to settle with Germany?

 “Before the U21 European championship in Sweden, the team went to a training camp on Tegernsee, a lake near Munich. One player still had to be eliminated. The decision was up to the team council. One of the players who was there, but doesn’t want to be identified, says: ‘Kevin was picked because he had been late for meetings several times. The idea was: someone who’s that unreliable jeopardizes the entire project. If you want to win the title, you can’t have anyone stepping out of line. Besides, he was injured.’” 

“It seems that one of the reasons Kevin-Prince Boateng decided to play for Ghana’s national team was because he still has a score to settle with Germany, even if he denies it. Jerome Boateng is playing for Germany, because it seems logical to him. In his case, reason is the motivating factor.”

“Matthias Sammer, the sports director of the German Football Association, puts it this way: ‘A lack of discipline and egotism can be discerned in Kevin-Prince. When it comes to his athletic and mental constitution, Jerome is the stronger player.’ In other words one brother is a good fit for Germany, while the other is not.”

Comment: The author cleverly saves the details about Kevin-Prince being cut from the U21 national team until the very end. The implication is that Kevin-Prince wouldn’t have made the German national team anyways. In this way, Germany gets the last word in. Kevin-Prince isn’t playing for Germany because he is “proud to be an African”, he’s playing for Germany because he’s already been cut from one of their national teams and isn’t eager for it to happen again. It becomes clear, Germany has snapped up the better of the Boateng brothers. Tonight’s match will be the ultimate test. I’ll be supporting you Kevin-Prince, if you’ve got scores to settle then this is your chance, a win for Ghana should silence your critics.



One Response to “The Bothersome Business of the Boateng Brothers”

  1. Daliso July 1, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    Glad you followed up on the boys after that other post a while back…

    Eh. The Spiegel article is just a thinly veiled racist attempt to construe Kevin’s decision to play for Ghana as something that was predetermined by his greater wildness or ‘Africanness.’ If you look at the timeline of anti-KPB comments in Germany, they always come after disciplinary issues come to light. His actions during his German tenure were not anti-German, but anti-team in any country. He would have been similarly cast out of the Ghana team if he’d misbehaved while playing in their colors. How coy the article is, however, in making it appear that the Ghanaian team is either an amalgamation of runaways, or a group that otherwise condones and breeds miscreants. To bolster its racist angle, the Spiegel piece also leaves out any mention of KPB’s mother- daughter of German football legend Helmut Rahn, scorer of the winning goal in the 1954 World Cup. On this evidence, KPB has greater entitlement to the German football tradition than his brother.

    All said, nothing I’ve read to date has dissuaded me from the viewpoint that KPB is playing for Ghana first as a mercenary, and second as a Ghanaian. For his part, Kevin’s paid soldiering was enforced by the German public. His World Cup-ending tackle on Michael Ballack initiated his exile and dashed any hopes the young man could have had of playing for the national side. Accidental or not, a temperamental fringe player like KPB was never going to be given another chance after wrecking the captain’s chance of playing in what was certainly going to be his last World Cup. Before that tackle, KPB had certainly hinted at playing for Ghana, (mainly because he was on the fringes in Germany) but his future wouldn’t have been cemented had it not been for that challenge gone horribly wrong. Therefore any attempts to conflate a certain pang of ‘Africanness’ with his decision to play for Ghana are rather lacking in merit. We can say that he was perhaps treated harshly in the aftermath of the tackle- it was in the heat of the FA Cup Final, after all and KPB was merely fighting for his club. Had the tackle been made by one of the young Turks in the German team, or, a blue blood like Schweinsteiger, the punishment would have likely been different. But it must be said that KPB’s name preceded him.

    That he wears the Ghanaian colors proudly now, I’m overjoyed. Hopefully he can produce the magic everybody sees in him against Uruguay. Though his hand was initially forced in taking this nationality and not the other, he might yet help the Black Stars forward with pride.

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