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Who is Martin Schulz, the man running against Merkel in Germany

As a young man, Schulz had to ditch his aspirations to be a footballer and later became a book seller

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The former European Parliament president, Martin Schulz, will run against chancellor Angela Merkelin as a candidate of Germany’s Social Democratic Party in this year’s election.

Schulz’s announcement in November to return to German politics will be a new change after being a member of the European Parliament since 1994.

Before he started his career in Brussels, he served as the mayor of the town of Wuerselen near the French border.

Schulz is a committed European. In 2003, Italy's then-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi caused a storm for jokingly offering Schulz a film part as a concentration camp guard.

As a young man, Schulz had to ditch his aspirations to be a footballer and later became a book seller. He announced in November he would return to German politics after his stint as president of the European Parliament.

However, his pro-European stance makes him vulnerable to attacks from the anti-immigrant and anti-euro Alternative for Germany which has made big gains in the last two years, especially due to the migrant crisis.

(With Reuters)