Mesut Ozil’s phone call with Erdogan: Turkish president praises Arsenal star for quitting Germany team over ‘racism’
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls Mesut Ozil after the Arsenal star quits Germany team, and praises his ‘completely patriotic’ behaviour
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he phoned Mesut Ozil to back the Arsenal midfielder’s decision to quit the German national team over what he felt was “racism”.
The controversy has caused uproar in Germany after Ozil released an explosive four-page statement on social media slamming German football officials, media and fans for mistreating him over a picture taken with Erdogan – who has been accused of human rights abuses – in London before the World Cup.
The defending champions crashed out the tournament in Russia at the group stage after defeats against Mexico and South Korea, and the 29-year-old feels he was made a “scapegoat” by the German Football Federation (DFB) and some of the country’s politicians.
Ozil, who lifted the 2014 World Cup, was born in Germany but has Turkish roots, and his decision to retire from international football has been warmly received in Turkey.
“On Monday night I spoke to Mesut. His attitude in the statement is completely patriotic, it is absolutely praiseworthy behaviour,” Erdogan said, in quotes published by state news agency Anadolu.
“It is not possible to accept this kind of racist, Islamophobic attitude towards a young man who gave and added so much to the success of the German national team. This really cannot be accepted.”
“I kiss him on his eyes,” Erdogan added, using a Turkish term of affection.
The government in Ankara has long campaigned against what they say as increased Islamophobia against immigrants integrating into Europe.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF), whose chief Yildirim Demiroren is an Erdogan ally, also offered its support to Ozil and his family in a statement.
“We condemn the treatment, threats and derogatory messages that Ozil has received because of his heritage and background,” the statement read.
“Every player, no matter whether they are in the public eye or not, has a right to be protected from abuse, discrimination and messages expressing hate.”
Ozil scored 23 goals in 92 appearances for Germany, and was an important member of the side that triumphed in Rio four years ago.
He has also been voted the national team’s player of the year five times since 2011 by fans, and starred in the side that won the European Under-21 Championship in 2009.
“I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten,” Ozil, a third generation Turkish-German, said.
His efforts have certainly not impressed 1974 World Cup-winning forward, Uli Hoeness, the president of Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
“He had been playing s*** for years,” Hoeness told German daily newspaper Bild. “He last won a tackle before the 2014 World Cup, and now he and his s**** performance hide behind this picture.”
Ozil’s decision has split opinion among fans in Germany, some of whom Ozil claimed racially abused him and insulted him and his family on social media – and in the stadiums of Russia – for his World Cup performances.
“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” said Ozil, who was booed by his own fans in pre-World Cup friendlies.
“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.”
Ozil has now joined Arsenal’s pre-season tour in Singapore, where he was met with messages of support by Singaporean fans.
His new club manager Unai Emery, who replaced Arsene Wenger in the summer after the Frenchman’s 22-year reign finally came to an end, has given Ozil his full backing.
“It’s a personal decision [which] I respect,” Emery said in Singapore ahead of Arsenal’s International Champions Cup friendly against Atletico Madrid.
“We are like his home. We are like his family … We are going to help him to feel good.”