Germany vs. Ghana: The Boateng Brothers' World Cup Duel
Part 2: Different Personalities and Playing Styles
The half-brothers' different personalities 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. The wound had to be sewed up with seven stitches.
Martina Boateng puts on her coat. On the way out, she says that she had expected that Jerome would play for Germany. 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.
Kevin-Prince was one-and-a-half when his father left the family home. His mother played football with the second-tier team Meteor 06 and worked long hours in a cookie factory. She eventually stopped working and went on welfare to take care of her children, two boys and three girls. Today she works as a geriatric nurse.
'I Was a Bad Role Model'
A man walks through the drizzle wearing a parka, the hood pulled down, half-covering his face. "Let's walk a little," he says. George Boateng is Kevin-Prince's older brother and Jerome's other half-brother. He takes us to the back room of a café. The 27-year-old is married to a Turkish Kurd and they have two children. He was a gifted football player when he was younger, but he destroyed his own career.
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 says that he calmed down after meeting his wife. "I haven't even parked illegally in 10 years."
Three years ago, however, he and his brother did try to attack then Hertha coach Falko Götz. The coach had told a journalist that he had once been to Kevin-Prince's house. "He has a lot of siblings, all from different fathers," Götz said. George Boateng leans forward. Götz isn't exactly a hero himself, he says. Slot machines flash behind him and the air smells of stale cigarette smoke.
When asked about his brother's affairs, he sits up straight again. "I'm the last one to claim that Kevin is an angel. But he's a good person. I'm not. I'm aggressive. I told him not to become like me." He doesn't want to talk about it anymore, he says.
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." The two most important things in their lives are football and family -- in that order. Occasionally they talk about their father.
Prince Boateng is waiting in a pub on the Adenauerplatz square in western Berlin. He sits at the bar, wearing an elegant jacket, two bracelets and three rings. A scar on his cheek identifies him as a member of the Aduana tribe.
Football Pitches Like Cages
In 1981, he left Sunyani, a city in western Ghana, and went to Germany by way of Hungary. He wanted to study business administration, but nothing came of it. There was too much paperwork involved. Instead, he scraped by as a waiter and disc jockey, later selling Italian fashion and occasionally working as a model.
He told his sons a lot about life in Africa. His parents were cacao and coffee farmers. His youngest brother played for the Ghanaian national football team. Boateng himself made it only as far as a local club in Berlin, the Reinickendorfer Füchse.
Prince Boateng travels to Ghana twice a year. He is currently having a house built in the capital Accra, and it is almost finished. The house is for his children, so that they can stay there if they choose to accompany him. 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."
It was always important to him that his children spent as much time together as possible. He coached both of them when they were still little boys. Sometimes they were allowed to play the ball with their left feet only, and sometimes only with their right feet. Sometimes they practiced free kicks and sometimes headers. His sons learned how to run, dribble and score goals on football pitches that looked like cages, surrounded by tall metal fences. Kevin would flick the ball with his heel over his head, dropping it to his foot -- wearing rubber boots.
Jerome joined Tennis Borussia Berlin, where he scored five goals in his first game. In 2002, he switched to Hertha, where Kevin-Prince was already playing. Some of their coaches felt that they were the most talented players to have ever played for the club.
Jerome debuted with the German national team last October, when he was part of the first 11 in a deciding World Cup qualifying match in Russia. His father watched the match on television in Jerome's apartment, "with tears in my eyes," as he says. Shortly before the break, Jerome was shown a yellow card because of a foul on the edge of the penalty box. "The ref didn't have to do that," says the father. In the 69th minute, Jerome brought down a Russian player and was shown a yellow and then a red card.
"He sacrificed himself for Germany," says Prince Boateng. It isn't meant to sound vain, but apologetic. "He started running a little too late, and his only option was to commit a foul, or else the Russian would have run toward the goal alone. It broke my heart to see him sent off."
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.
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