Turkey Supports Mesut Ozil After Decision to Quit German National Team
Turkey’s authorities praised German player Mesut Ozil for his decision to retire from national football after a crisis over a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weeks before the World Cup this summer.
Turkish ministers on Monday warmly applauded the decision of Turkish-origin German footballer Ozil to quit the national team on the grounds of racism, with one senior minister hailing “a goal against the virus of fascism.”
Ozil, who was born in Germany to a Turkish-origin family, had been under fire since posing for a controversial photograph with Erdogan in May which sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
Breaking weeks of silence, Ozil said on Sunday he would no longer play for Germany internationally “whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect.”
The Arsenal midfielder had been heavily criticized by the leadership of the German Football Federation (DFB) for the picture and was also blamed by some in Germany for the team’s failure in Russia.
“I congratulate Mesut Ozil who by leaving the national team has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul wrote on Twitter.
Turkey’s Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu, like Gul posting the picture of a smiling Ozil with Erdogan, added: “We sincerely support the honorable stance that our brother Mesut Ozil has taken.”
In a tweet posted before Ozil’s decision to leave the national side was made public, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the footballer’s defense of the meeting was “a pity for those who claim to be tolerant and multiculturalist!”
Fellow German international Ilkay Gundogan of Manchester City was also present at the London meeting with Erdogan in May on the president’s visit to Britain, as well as striker Cenk Tosun of Everton who was born in Germany but represents Turkey.
“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” Ozil said in a statement on social media channels on Sunday.
Ozil, 29, said he had been unfairly blamed in Germany for the side’s shock group stage exit at the World Cup.
He insisted he was true to both his Turkish and German origins and did not intend to make a political statement by appearing with Erdogan a month ahead of elections in Turkey.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” said the star player.
‘Immigrant When We Lose’
The Arsenal midfielder blamed the German Football Federation (DFB) for failing to defend him against his most strident critics, lashing out at “mistreatment” in particular from DFB President Reinhard Grindel.
He said that Grindel and Germany coach Joachim Loew had asked him to give a “joint statement to end all the talk and set the record straight” over the picture with Erdogan.
“Whilst I attempted to explain to Grindel my heritage, ancestry and therefore reasoning behind the photo, he was far more interested in speaking about his own political views and belittling my opinion.”
“I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his (Grindel’s) incompetence and inability to do his job properly,” he said.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”