Ozil quits German national team, citing racism
Mesut Ozil is quitting Germany’s national soccer team after receiving intense criticism over his decision to pose for a picture with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
In a series of statements posted Sunday on Twitter, Ozil announced his retirement from international soccer.
He attacked the German federation (known as DFB), its president, fans and the news media, criticizing them for what he said was racism and double standards in the treatment of people with Turkish roots.
Citing anti-Turkish comments from far-right politicians and fans, the 29-year-old Ozil said he would “no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect.”
He added: “Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
The photo of Erdogan, Ozil and his German teammate Ilkay Gundogan meeting in London caused an uproar in Germany two months ago.
At the time, the head of Germany’s soccer federation, Reinhard Grindel, accused the players — whose families came to Germany from Turkey — of allowing themselves to be “exploited” by Erdogan for political purposes.
Some German politicians questioned Ozil’s and Gundogan’s loyalty to Germany and suggested they should be removed from the national squad ahead of the World Cup.
Gundogan played down the picture, but Ozil refused to comment publicly until Sunday, when he published a three-part statement in English defending his actions with Erdogan and attacking those who had criticized him.
“The picture we took had no political intentions,” said Ozil, adding that it “was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
He also mentioned German media who had suggested that Ozil, a star midfielder for Arsenal, was partly to blame for Germany’s shocking group-stage exit from the World Cup.
“This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me,” Ozil said, noting that there had been little criticism of the former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus over his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
Ozil reserved his sharpest words for Grindel, however, alleging that the federation president had been “patronizing” toward him.
“I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly,” Ozil said, claiming that Grindel had made “unforgivable and unforgettable” comments about immigrants and Muslims in the past.
On Twitter, Ozil said: “The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt.
“I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
Ozil was a key part of Germany’s World Cup-winning team in 2014.
While Ozil said he had received support from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the national team coach, Joachim Low, he added that “in the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”
Source: The Associated Press