Özil quits Germany, citing racism and disrespect’

Mesut Özil has quit the German national team over “racism and disrespect” he’s received from the country’s media and governing body.

The Arsenal midfielder was widely criticised and reportedly received threats after he was photographed with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a London event in May this year.

In a four-page statement released by the player on Twitter, Ozil detailed how his detractors have been quick to link the controversy to Germany’s torrid World Cup performance.

“Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause,” he said. “Why else did they use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia? They didn’t criticise my performances … they just criticised my Turkish ancestry and respect for my upbringing.

“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”

Eligible to play for Turkey, Özil decided to represent the country of his birth, Germany, and has gone on to make 92 caps since his debut in 2009. Undoubtedly a key player since then, he has been named the national team’s player of the year five times. In 2014, he was integral in guiding Germany to a fantastic 2014 World Cup title.

In Russia, however, the entire side capitulated and earned themselves a swift group stages exit. Thanks to a late Toni Kroos winner, Joachim Löw’s side were able to overcome Sweden but limply fell to Mexico and South Korea.

In his statement, Özil said he’s happy to receive criticism for his performances but the recent barrage of judgment has far exceeded that and instead has sought to zone in on his heritage.

Among the insults he has received, a politician reportedly called him a “goat f**cker” and his fans labeled him a “Turkish s**t”.

The German FA, in particular he said, has grossly perpetuated the attack against him.

“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 while I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” he said.

“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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