Mesut Ozil, who has come under fire for posing for a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Erdogan in May said on Sunday he was quitting the German national football team, citing “racism” in the criticism of him in the side’s World Cup debacle. According to Arsenal striker, the way he has been treated by the German football association makes him “no longer want to wear the German national team shirt.” The first part of his statement on his Twitter account explained the reason behind his controversial photograph with Turkey president Recep Erdogan, the second update criticized how the media and sponsors reacted to the incident, and the third part made DFB president Reinhard Grindel its focus, as he slammed the official saying “I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly.”
“Arguably the issue that has frustrated me the most over the past couple of months has been the mistreatment from the DFB, and in particular the DFB President Richard Grindel,” he said.
He said that Grindel and Germany coach Joachim Low, 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.” He also accused the DFB president of racism, stating that “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.” Ozil said he had been unfairly blamed in Germany for the side’s shock first-round defeat at the World Cup. Ozil said earlier that he was true to both his Turkish and German origins, and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement by appearing with Erdogan. “Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said. “I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.” As well as Grindel, the 29-year-old highlighted the actions of politician Bernd Holzhauer who called Ozil a “goat-f***er” and Chief of German Theatre Werner Steer who wished for the footballer to “p*** back to Anatolia.” According to Mesut Ozil, the way he has been treated by German media, politicians and especially the DFB has caused him to make the “difficult decision” to announce his international retirement, saying that: “I now feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
Ozil, 29, said he had first met Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match together in Berlin. Mesut Ozil said despite the timing of the picture with teammate Ilkay Gundogan and Erdogan – shortly before the president won re-election in a poll endowing him with sweeping new powers – “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country”. “My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Mesut Ozil added. AFP reported that though Germany is home to about three million people of Turkish origin, however Mesut Ozil and Gundogan were booed by German fans in pre-World Cup friendlies after posing with Erdogan in London. Man City midfielder Gundogan presented him with a signed club shirt on which he had written “to my president”. In those nine years, Ozil has played 92 times for his country, scoring 23 goals. He was part of the side that lifted the 2014 World Cup and also helped Germany to the semi-finals of the 2012 and 2016 European Championships. Mesut Ozil also went with Germany to the 2010 and 2018 World Cups and was named national team player of the year five times. However Team boss Oliver Bierhoff suggested after the debacle, Germany should have considered dropping Ozil after his failure to explain himself over the Erdogan picture. Bierhoff later backtracked, saying that he “was wrong” to put Ozil under undue pressure, but the picture continued to draw scorn from fans on social media.