A German football club and one of the country’s star players are feeling the heat from China. News emerged over the weekend that Bundesliga side Cologne have lost a deal with a Chinese gambling sponsor, while Arsenal star and former Germany international Mesut Ozil is still being blacklisted by mainland media. According to Cologne newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger , the loss for the postponed deal for the top-flight side was about €1.5 million (US$1.66 million). The club did not offer comment but confirmed that the potential sponsors from China had withdrawn, reported Deutsche Welle online. Cologne made headlines last month when they chose to postpone a joint academy with Chinese second-tier side Liaoning. The “current sporting situation” was the reason given for the end of that deal by club president Werner Wolf to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger . “Other forms of possible cooperation, for example sponsoring from Chinese companies, hasn’t been ruled out,” Wolf also said. That was at odds with former board member and club council member Stefan Müller-Römer, who told the same paper his view. “I understand that Germany can’t completely get by without China and that there is an exchange between the two countries, but we don’t need China in sport and I stand by that. Slightly disappointed with the final score. We were fighting all together to get the away win, but it wasn't meant to be. Let's stay positive and keep believing, Gunners ⚽ #M1Ö #COYG pic.twitter.com/nxvkwEEUrh — Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) January 11, 2020 “In China, human rights are being massively disregarded. A complete surveillance state is being built, one worse than even George Orwell could have imagined. I have followed developments in China for more than 20 years and I have been there several times. I know what I am talking about.” The 51-year-old lawyer added: “That is why I am of the opinion that 1 FC Cologne should not be active there. Making money at any cost is not an option for me. Apart from the fact that it is questionable whether it is possible to make money there, there are more important things than money. And as a non-profit organisation, that is socially active, we cannot support such a brutal and totalitarian dictatorship.” Wolf distanced the club from Muller-Romer’s “private” opinion, while China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said the comments were “pure nonsense”. Now, three weeks on from walking away from that US$2 million deal, the club is counting the cost of potential Chinese sponsors choosing not to partner with them. Meanwhile, former Germany international Mesut Ozil is still being blacklisted by Chinese media. The Arsenal midfielder angered his fans in China and the government by speaking out about the alleged state persecution of ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang. Ozil, who is of Turkish heritage and Muslim, posted on his social media accounts about re-education camps and other alleged abuses of human rights carried out against the Uygur population of the far western region of China. Reaction came from the Chinese foreign ministry, with spokesman Geng Shuang saying that Ozil had been deceived by “fake news”. State broadcaster CCTV’s immediate response was to not screen Arsenal’s game against Manchester City, but the London club’s games have returned to screens and online through PP Sports. However, Ozil’s name is omitted from broadcasts. He is neither mentioned during the line-ups nor during play. The World Cup winner is also absent from China’s search engines and newspapers and was deleted from the Chinese version of the Pro Evolution Soccer video game. This trend is set to continue, according to a report in The Times , which quoted an anonymous Beijing-based expert on Chinese football. “As a commercial moneymaking body, PP Sports have to balance their commercial interests and the political risks. So they have chosen what they think is the best strategy: continuing airing Arsenal matches in a low-key way with Ozil ignored.” That is becoming increasingly bizarre now he has returned to form under new boss Mikel Arteta. Ozil was involved in Arsenal’s opening goal in Saturday’s English Premier League draw with Crystal Palace. He was one of the most popular players in China and was the second most followed of all England-based players in the country last season, according to the 2019 Red Card Report published by sports agency Mailman. Their 2020 Red Card Report is set to be published this week and the fallout from Ozil’s comments will be clear to see, as will any hangover for his club. Ozil’s popularity was long-standing, with many Chinese becoming fans when he helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, crushing the hosts 7-1 in the semi-finals along the way before beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final. The German national team are incredibly popular in China, in large part down to their success on the international stage – they had top-three finishes at seven consecutive World Cups and European Championships until Euro 2016. There have also been various levels of cooperation between the two FAs in recent years, following the Chinese government’s plans to reform football in the country, and they went beyond the MOU (memorandum of understanding) often favoured. A five-year government-level “knowledge transfer agreement” was signed in November 2016 by German chancellor Angela Merkel and China vice premier Liu Yandong. This was around the time that Cologne and Bayer Leverkusen announced their Chinese partnerships. Tokyo 2020 as far off as World Cup for Chinese men’s football This was followed by Chinese President Xi Jinping sitting beside Merkel to watch an under-12 game between German and Chinese youngsters during his July 2017 visit to Berlin. It has not all been smooth sailing, though. A series of friendly matches in Germany later that year featuring the Chinese Under-20 team as an unofficial member of a fourth-tier regional league proved controversial. Many in German football were outraged at the addition of the Chinese side as the division’s 20th team and three of the clubs – Waldhof Mannhein, the Stuttgart Kickers and TuS Koblenz – refused to play, despite the promise of 15,000 euros per game for playing what was regarded as Chinese side for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics football team. They did not have to worry for long. The games were scrapped after just one of the 16 fixtures . Tibetan independence supporters protested at the first game in Mainz, which was being broadcast back in China. The small-scale protests saw just six people with four flags among a crowd of 400 but they were enough to derail the plans. The Chinese team had to leave the field until the flags and protesters had been removed. The second game was not played as Germany refused to guarantee that no protests would occur. They were officially “rescheduled” for after the winter break. Needless to say, they were never played. China took its players and 15,000 euros per match home . While the clubs demanded what they were owed , the German fourth-tier sides found out what a top-tier side and a World Cup-winning footballer have since found: playing the game means playing by China’s rules.