Mesut Ozil’s decision to retire from international football was a whammy in itself but the fact that the 29-year-old claimed that he was the victim of racism in Germany and was made a scapegoat due to his Turkish origins has brewed a fresh storm around the world.
A third generation Turkish-German, Ozil is widely regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation and perhaps, the last true No.10.
And the Arsenal star didn’t hold back from slamming the German media, the DFB and its president—Reinhard Grindel— in a three-part Twitter post that went viral within minutes.
To perhaps douse the fire that has been lit in the wake of Ozil’s comments, the DFB issued a statement responding to the midfielder:
“Özil won 92 caps for the Germany national team and helped define a very successful era, both on and indeed off the pitch. Mesut Özil played a key role in Germany lifting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and so the DFB is and always will be incredibly grateful for his outstanding performances in Germany colours,” the statement read.
A five-time winner of the national team’s Player of the Year award, Ozil was often criticised for not bringing his A-game when putting on the Die Mannschaft jersey.
The 29-year-old went on to claim, in his twitter post, that when the national side would win, he would be called a German, but when they would lose, he would be termed an immigrant.
“Diversity is a strength – not only in football – and that is why our integration efforts have a fundamental importance at every level. From the lower leagues all the way to the senior national teams, many footballers with migrant backgrounds are part of the DFB. We play and live together with our various roots, religions and cultures. What must connect us all within that, both on and off the pitch, is respecting the human rights firmly established in our constitution and standing up for the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as well as respect, tolerance and fair play. A commitment to these core values is a prerequisite for every person who plays football for Germany.”
And in May, Ozil seemed to have touched a nerve with the German media and perhaps, even the DFB when he met Turkish President Recep Erdogan in London with another German player of Turkish descent, Ilkay Gundogan.
Both players were roundly criticised for meeting the controversial politician right before the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
And the fact that Germany suffered the ignominy of a first-round exit in Russia didn’t exactly help matters.
“Therefore, the pictures with Turkish president Erdogan raised questions for many people in Germany. We self-critically acknowledge that the DFB played a part in that when dealing with this issue. We also regret that Mesut Özil – unlike Jerome Boateng – feels as if he wasn’t given enough protection when made the target of racist slogans. However, it was important for Mesut Özil, like Ilkay Gündogan before him, to provide answers for this photo, regardless of the way the World Cup in Russia went. At the DFB, we win and lose together, all of us, as a team.”
Notably, the DFB chose not to respond to Ozil’s comments about Grendel, instead choosing to take the high road by claiming they could not understand why the midfielder felt that way with regards to the federations’s president.
“The DFB would have been happy for Mesut Özil to continue being part of this team on that common basis, but he has chosen otherwise. The DFB respects that, and for us as an association that wishes to be respectful to a commendable Germany international, we wish to make no public comment in regard to some statements that for us are incomprehensible in their tone and message.”
In the end, however, they accepted Ozil’s decision to retire from international football at the relatively young age of 29.
“For the DFB to have been associated with racism is something we emphatically reject, with regard to our ambassadors, staff members, our clubs and the work of millions of volunteers at grassroots level.The DFB regrets Mesut Özil’s decision to step down from the national team. But it does not affect the association’s determination to continue its successful work on integration.”
While Germany have been a conveyor belt of footballing talent in recent times and they do posses plenty of prospects ready to make the most of Ozil’s absence, there isn’t a like-for-like replacement for the classy midfielder.
Germany’s loss is set to be Arsenal’s gain as the club will benefit from having a player who has extra motivation to perform now and will not be distracted from any international commitments.