Mesut Ozil: Arsenal midfielder quits Germany over 'racism and disrespect'

Mesut Ozil: Arsenal midfielder quits Germany over 'racism and disrespect'
Arsenal star Mesut Ozil retired from the German national team on Sunday, after facing racism and disrespect over his dual nationality.
2 min read
23 July, 2018
Ozil was a key player in the 2014 World Cup winning German national team [Getty]
Arsenal football star Mesut Ozil resigned from the German national team on Sunday, after facing what he described as racism and disrespect due to his Turkish heritage.

The 29-year-old German midfielder said he quit international football after receiving hate mail, threats and widespread criticism in national media, after the national team crashed out early of the World Cup earlier this month.

He also faced criticism after he was photographed with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London last May, particularly as the increasingly authoritarian leader has been a harsh critic of the German government.

Ozil, whose parents are of Turkish origin, said he was also blamed for Germany crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages. 

The forward said Germans were quick to forget the key role he played when Germany lifted the World Cup in 2014. 

"I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil said in a lengthy statement published online.

"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."

The image of the midfielder, standing alongside Erdogan in May, sparked controversy in Germany with many questioning Ozil's loyalties to his home country's democratic values.

But the Arsenal star dismissed the questioning as a typically racist overview of those with dual nationalities.

"Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I'm a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue," he said.

"It wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country," he added.

German football chiefs, including the country's football association - criticised by name in the statement for its treatment of the footballer -  have yet to respond to the remarks.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to the football star. 

"The chancellor values Mesut Ozil highly. He is a great footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team," said Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, adding that he has "now made a decision that must be respected."

Meanwhile, members of Turkey's leading government stood alongside Ozil for his stance.

"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 said.

And the country's Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said the player had taken an "honourable stance".