Two German footballers of Turkish heritage, Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, posed for photographs with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The photos, as The Guardian reported, surfaced in late May this year, sparking debate over dual citizenship and national identity in Germany.
Both Ozil and Gundogan, who currently play in the English Premier League, were criticized by German politicians, including Angela Merkel. The shirt Gundogan, who holds German and Turkish passports, gave Erdogan had “To my president, with my respects” written on it, The Guardian noted.
Now, as Reuters news agency reports, following a 1-0 defeat by Mexico, Germany’s national soccer team, as well as the coach Joachim Loew, are under fire. Loew stuck with Ozil, who was under-performing, instead of starting the match with the speedy winger Marco Reus.
According to the far-right Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD), Germany’s national team lost due to lack of team spirit caused by Ozil and Gundogan who, Joern Koenig, the AfD’s spokesman on sport claims, take their part “half-heartedly” and “can’t muster the necessary fighting spirit.”
Both players, the AfD suggests, should be dropped from the squad, and sent home.
“Joachim Loew should cut the cord and send both of them home. There are national players who are proud of our country and Ozil and Gundogan should free up two spots on the national team for players who don’t pay more homage to the Turkish president than they do to the German homeland.”
Rival political parties, Reuters noted, have not responded to AfD’s comments yet, but Germany’s former World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaeus wrote an op-ed in one of the country’s best-selling newspapers, Bild, attacking Mesut Ozil, claiming the Arsenal attacking midfielder “doesn’t feel comfortable” in the national team’s shirt, leaving the impression that he “doesn’t even want to play.”
Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan is, as CNN noted, a famous soccer aficionado and former player. Considered a controversial figure, both in Turkey and abroad, Erdogan has managed to improve the country’s economy, but critics have accused him of corruption and autocratic tendencies.
For instance, as CNN reported, Erdogan infamously called social media “the worst menace to society,” threatened to “eradicate” Twitter, publicly made sexist comments, and generally, displayed theocratic and autocratic tendencies, smothering opposition, allegedly rigging elections by abolishing Turkey’s parliamentary system.
Erdogan’s – and therefore Turkey’s – relationship with Europe remains strained. European leaders, BBC noted, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, have criticized Erdogan for jailing journalists and stunting Turkey’s progress in terms of joining the European Union.
Defending soccer World Cup champions lost to Mexico and now have two more games to play, against Sweden and South Korea, before the next leg of the competition begins. As the New York Times reported, Germany national team’s coach, Joachim Loew, seemed confident and calm at a post-match press conference, dismissing the defeat as nothing more than a setback.