On 23 June 2010, Germany and Ghana took to the pitch for a group stage match at the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was a unique event in World Cup history. Over the years, football has seen many pairs of siblings represent their national teams, but this particular match saw two brothers play for different nations. Representing Germany was Jérôme Boateng, and on the other side was Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Going into the game, the Ghanaian Boateng had to endure his fair share of criticism. The German fans weren’t happy with his tackle on Michael Ballack, Germany’s captain, in the FA Cup final a few weeks prior to the start of the World Cup. His brother, Jérôme, hadn’t spoken to him in the days leading up to the tournament and this match had a unique sub-plot to it. On the pitch, the pair remained professional as ever. Joachim Löw’s team ended up winning that night, but this clash had more to it than just the three points.
The Boatengs’ story goes back 29 years prior to that meeting. It was in 1981 that their father, Prince, moved to Berlin from Ghana and had two sons, George and Kevin-Prince, in March 1987. Jérôme, meanwhile, was born to Prince’s second wife just 18 months later, but they all grew up in the same city, often playing football together. It is often believed George was the most talented footballer of the trio, but his troubled upbringing derailed his career. Instead, the two younger brothers made the most of their talents.
The elder pair lived away from Jérôme, who was raised with his father, but they all played at the Hertha Berlin academy. While George drifted away from football, Kevin-Prince was earning a reputation as a bright forward, even representing the Germany youth teams. He won the prestigious Fritz Walter Medal in 2006, given to the nation’s best under-19 footballer, before moving to Tottenham a year later.
Jérôme was doing well, too. A year after his older brother won that medal, he achieved the same feat and then moved to Hamburg.
It was in 2009 that things changed. After a few years of representing his country of birth, Kevin-Prince switched allegiance to Ghana. This decision came after he was left out of the squad for the Under-21 European Championships having visited a nightclub shortly before the tournament, something that angered Matthias Sammer, the technical director of the DFB. “A lack of discipline and a certain egotism can be discerned in Kevin-Prince,” said Sammer. “When it comes to his athletic and mental constitution, Jérôme is the stronger player.” continue reading