Mesut Ozil quits German national side citing 'racism and disrespect' over President Erdogan photo

22 July 2018, 21:03

Mesut Ozil is quitting the German national team citing "racist" criticism after he met Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Arsenal star has hit out at fans, the media and the German football federation (DFB), claiming they have double standards in their treatment of people with Turkish roots.

Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, cited comments from far-right politicians and football supporters when he 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."

A photograph of Ozil and Manchester City's German player Ilkay Gundogan meeting President Erdogan in London caused uproar two months ago.

Gundogan is also of Turkish descent.

Reinhard Grindel, who was the head of Germany's soccer federation at the time, accused the players of allowing themselves to be "exploited" by Mr Erdogan for political purposes.

Some German politicians questioned Ozil and Gundogan's loyalty to Germany, suggesting they should be removed from the national squad ahead of the World Cup.

However, a spokeswoman for German leader Angela Merkel said the chancellor respected Ozil's decision to step down and that she "values Ozil", adding that he was a "great footballer" who "did a lot for the national team".

The spokeswoman also said Germany was a country where people with migrant backgrounds were welcome and that people of Turkish descent in the country were "well integrated".

Gundogan distanced himself from the picture, but Ozil refused to comment publicly until Sunday, when he published a three-part statement in English defending his actions and attacking those who have criticised him.

He wrote that the "picture we took had no political intentions" and "was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country".

Ozil, who won the World Cup with Germany in 2014, also took a swipe at the country's media who suggested that he was partly to blame for his side's group-stage exit from the 2018 tournament.

He said: "This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me."

The footballer added: "In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose."

Ozil noted that there had been little criticism of former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus over a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The midfielder reserved his sharpest words for Mr Grindel, alleging that the federation president had been "patronising" towards him.

He continued: "I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly."

The footballer claimed that Mr 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."

DFB later rejected claims of racism in a statement on Monday, saying that it "stands for diversity, from the representatives at the top to the boundless, day-to-day dedication of people at the base".

It added: "The DFB is very grateful to Mesut Ozil for his outstanding performance in the jersey of the German national teams.

"It is regrettable that Mesut Ozil felt that he had not been sufficiently protected as a target of racist slogans. But it was important that Mesut Ozil, like Ilkay Gundogan before him, gives answers to the photo [with Mr Erdogan].

"In the DFB, we win and lose together, as a team. The DFB would have been happy if Mesut Ozil had wanted to remain part of the team on this shared basis. He decided otherwise."