Explosive sketch | Cartoonist draws threat for mixing football, TNT

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Link to the cartoon at Klaus Stuttmann's official siteBerlin | A provocative sketch by Der Tagesspiegel cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann, depicting Iranian footballers strapped with explosives, has thrown Germany into the imbroglio over caricatures seen as anti-Islamic. Stuttmann has abandoned his apartment following death threats; an image on the cartoonist’s home page shows him cowering beneath a manhole cover. Violence stemming from the images of Muhammad published in Denmark and the German cartoon, published on Feb 10, resulted in rioting in Pakistan as well as protests at the German Embassy in Tehran.

Stuttmann has defended the cartoon as a metaphor that pokes fun at reports that German World Cup organizers would use the military to help provide security in June. The image shows four Iranian players—stereotypically rendered, with moustaches and five-o’-clock shadows, perhaps to show them as they might appear in the minds of German organizers—with German soldiers as counterparts. The legend reads, “Warum bei der WM unbedingt … die Bundeswehr zum Einsatz kommen muss!” or “Why the German army should definitely be used during the World Cup.”

Already upset at suggestions by German chancellor Angela Merkel that her nation might support military action against Iran, diplomats from Iran wrote Der Tagesspiegel to call the cartoon an “immoral act” and to ask for an apology. The paper has refused, although Stuttmann made clear, in a statement, his intent behind the drawing:

I don’t see the Iranians as suicide bombers. On the contrary: They are athletes like all other athletes. And that is exactly why you do not need the army. I used a metaphor. However, many Iranians have misinterpreted the drawing to mean: We need the army because of the Iranians.

Adds Malte Lehming, editor of the newspaper’s comment section, “Cartoonists have to be satirical and mean.” But the integrity of the Iranian footballers is not under question, the paper says.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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