When Politics and Football Shouldn't Mix: German-Turkish Ozil Quits National Team Over ‘Racism’

Published July 23rd, 2018 - 01:34 GMT
German-Turkish Footballer Mesut Ozil announced quitting the German National Football Team over racism and disrespect. (AFP/File Photo)
German-Turkish Footballer Mesut Ozil announced quitting the German National Football Team over racism and disrespect. (AFP/File Photo)

By Randa Darwish

News of the German-Turkish Footballer Mesut Ozil's retirement from the German national football team over “racism and disrespect” allegations have attracted football fans' attention around the world, drawing much mixed reactions.

Through a series of tweets, the Germany and Arsenal player of Turkish descent announced his retirement from the national team on Sunday because of the racist treatment he received from the German Football Association (DFB) after meeting with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier in May, Ozil appeared posing with Erdogan ahead of the Turkish elections in London before Russia’s World Cup along with his teammate Ilkay Gundogan, who is also of Turkish descent.

The meeting sparked criticism among German media outlets and politicians, who questioned Ozil’s loyalty to Germany amid rising political tensions between the two countries. The tensions followed Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

In his tweets, Ozil defended his meeting with Erdogan, saying: “My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies. 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 what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”

Ozil confirmed his meeting with Erdogan had “no political intentions”, and “It was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country”.

“For me, it did not matter who was president, it mattered that it was the President.”

The 29-year-old player, who played a major role in Germany’s win in the 2014 World Cup, was blamed by the German media for the failure of his national team in the latest World Cup in Russia. “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he said.

Ozil also accused the DFB President Reinhard Grindel, who has been attacking Ozil, saying: “I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly.”

“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote.

Weighing up all the reasons behind his decision, Ozil concluded his four pages-long statement saying:“Racism should never, ever be accepted.”

The footballer’s decision to quit the national team drew mixed reactions in Germany among social media users who were split between defenders and opponents.

The German Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted in defence saying:

"It is a warning sign when a big German footballer like @MesutOzil1088 no longer feels wanted in his country because of #racism and does not feel represented by #DFB.”

*Translation was adapted from Deutsche Welle website.

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said on Monday that Merkel "values Mesut Ozil highly”. "He is a footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team," Ulrike Demmer said, adding that he has "now made a decision that must be respected."

Meanwhile, Ozil’s supporters in Turkey hailed his decision to quit a national team that does not respect its players or appreciate their efforts.

The Turkish Justice Minister, Abdulhamit Gul posted a Tweet congratulating Ozil for his brave decision.

Translation: "I congratulate Mesut Özil who by leaving the national team has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism.”

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