German Soccer Star Mesut Ozil Quits National Team After Erdogan Photo Backlash

Presidential Press ServiceAP Images

German star Mesut Ozil has quit the national team after receiving backlash for a photograph with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taken during an event in London back in May, according to BBC.

Ozil was heavily criticized for the photograph taken before the World Cup in Russia, where his team crashed out after a dismal showing in the group stages. The Arsenal player was singled out by many as being one of the reasons for Germany’s dip in form, leading to the player’s father publicly asking him to quit the national team.

Now two months after the incident, Ozil has gone ahead and done exactly that. In a lengthy statement, he defended his actions while accusing the DFB (German Football Association) of “racism” and failing to protect its dual-heritage players from widespread hatred and social media abuse.

Claiming that the German FA, and particularly its president Richard Grindel, had double standards when dealing with players of Turkish descent, Ozil said he would “no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” reported SkySports.

Ozil is of Turkish descent and was one of the standout performers for Germany when they clinched the World Cup four years ago in Brazil.

Ozil said that his photograph with Erdogan was merely him acknowledging his family’s roots and had nothing to do with the politics that the Turkish president espouses. Germany has been one of Erdogan’s fiercest critics in Europe, accusing the Turkish president of consolidating power by cracking down on dissenters and choking democracy.

“For me, having a picture with President Erdogan 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.

The treatment I have received from the DFB (German Football Association) and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt. I feel unwanted and think what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”

Claiming that his family had been subject to death threats, hate mail and overwhelming social media abuse, Ozil hit back at his critics by saying he was being turned into a means of “political propaganda” by the German FA — something he simply could not accept.

“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. The decision has been extremely difficult to make because I have always given everything for my teammates, the coaching staff and the good people of Germany,” he wrote.

Ozil was not the only player who was photographed during Erdogan’s visit to London. Manchester City’s German player Ikay Gundogan, who is also of Turkish descent, as well as Everton’s Cenk Tosun, were also photographed with the Turkish president.