Mesut Özil quits German team citing ‘racism’


German footballer Mesut Özil on Sunday announced his retirement from the national team, in the wake of the controversy surrounding his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Özil was heavily criticised after he, along with his teammate, Ilkay Gundogan, who has Turkish ancestry, posed for a photograph with Erdogan at a charitable event in May.

→ Mesut Ozil was criticised for posing for this photograph with President Erdogan

In a series of tweets, Özil, who has Turkish roots himself, posted a lengthy statement defending his meeting with Erdogan and criticised German media for “politicizing” the entire episode.

The 29-year-old Arsenal midfielder said, “I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful. The picture we took had no political intentions. 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.”

The 29-year-old midfielder said that he felt unwanted and his contributions to the German national football since his debut in 2009 had been forgotten. Özil lamented that he was hanging up his international boots with a heavy heart, adding that he had a feeling of “racism and disrespect.”

“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,” he further said. Özil signed off saying that “racism should never, ever be accepted.”

Born to Turkish parents in Germany’s Gelsenkirchen city, Özil has earned 92 caps, scoring 23 goals since his debut in 2009. With this announcement, Özil’s last game was effectively against South Korea in this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, wherein his side slumped down to a 2-0 shocking loss, which saw Germany being eliminated at group stages for the first time in 80 years.