Jul 23 2018

German Soccer Federation rejects Mesut Ozil’s racism claims

Germany's football federation (DFB) has rejected allegations of racism on Monday, following national squad star Mesut Ozil's statements accusing the federation of treating him like an immigrant when it suits the DFB’s interests in his statement quitting the national squad, ESPN news reported.

Ozil announced that he is throwing in the towel on his international career on Sunday, as he lashed out at the president of the German federation (DFB) for his reaction to him and fellow Turkish origin footballer Ilkay Gundogan posing for a photo with Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May. 

The players’ photo with the Turkey’s strongman has created an ongoing uproar in Germany with politicians, media and fans raising concerns over his loyalty to Germany's squad ahead of the World Cup in Russia.

Özil, born in Germany to a family of Turkish origin, was accused of helping Erdoğan achieve a PR win ahead of Turkey’s June 24 elections, in which around 1.2 million people in Germany with Turkish backgrounds were eligible to vote.

The DFB in response said that while it "regrets the departure of Mesut Ozil from the national team" and remains "very thankful for his outstanding performances in the Germany national team shirt,’’ went on to vehemently reject that the DFB is being linked with racism.

‘’What must unite us all on and off the field is respecting the human rights which are anchored in the constitution, advocating freedom of opinion and press, as well as respect, tolerance and fair play. Acknowledgement of these fundamental values is necessary for every player, male or female, who plays for Germany,’’ the DFB said, adding:

"The pictures with the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan therefore raised questions for many people in Germany. We are self-critical enough to admit that the DFB also contributed to this with the way we dealt with the issue, and we very much regret that Mesut Ozil felt that he was not given sufficient protection, as had been the case with Jerome Boateng, when he became the victim of racist insults. It was important, however, that Mesut Ozil, as Ilkay Gundogan before him, gives answers about this photo, regardless of the way the tournament in Russia ended. In the DFB, we win and we lose together, as a team.

"The DFB would have been pleased had Mesut Ozil wanted to remain part of this team. He has decided differently. The DFB respects that and it is also part of our obligations as an association to act respectfully towards our worthy national team players and [this is why] we do not comment on some remarks, be it their tone or content, in public.’’

Despite the ongoing frenzy in Germany, Ozil, posted a lengthy statement on social media on Sunday insisting that he had done nothing wrong in meeting Erdogan and said he will no longer represent Germany.

"It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect," Özil said. "I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don't."

Özil has received a mixed reaction in Germany following the announcement of his decision.

Some, such as Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, have been vocal critics of the 29-year-old player. "I'm glad this nightmare is over. He's been playing crap for years," Hoeness said.