Case of Mesut Özil proves power of politics - analysis
The case of Arsenal midfielder and former German national squad player Mesut Özil highlights the ability of politics to permeate every aspect of life, including sports, wrote DPA news agency.
The 30-year-old German player with Turkish roots Özil made headlines before the World Cup when he was pictured with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a move that came under intense criticism in Germany and set off a chain of events culminating in the Özil calling an end to his international football career. The Arsenal player said "racism and disrespect" over his Turkish roots led him to make the call.
‘’It was a drama worthy of Shakespeare,’’ the article noted, ‘’a scandalous photograph, misunderstandings, a fallen star, a bumbling football president and disappointment.’’
When Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) organized a charity dinner over the summer in London, two German football professionals of Turkish origins, Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan attended, having their photo taken with Turkey’s strongman.
The AKP published the pictures on Twitter, ostensibly in a move to boost their election campaign as Turkey was headed to parliamentary and presidential elections.
Enter Reinhard Grindel, President of the German Football Association (DFB), who reacted the image, saying he understands and respects that the players have Turkish roots, however, ‘’football and the DFB stand for values that are not observed adequately by Mr Erdogan,"
Grindel added that Özil and Gündoğan had been "abused" for Erdoğan's campaign.
The German far-right took things further, calling for the immediate expulsion of the two players from the national team.
Despite the fact that Özil released a statement saying, ‘’I grew up [in Germany] and stand by my country," the two players continued to ''divide'' the country. The far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) used the case to further turn people against immigrants.
The pair were part of the German line up at the World Cup, however, their goals were met with boos.
The pair were even summoned by the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier over the matter.
Özil eventually lashed out at German media, at sponsors, at the DFB and at Grindel, saying he is throwing in the towel on his international career, citing ‘’racism and lack of respect."
Despite the fact the Grindel admits months later that he should have spoken out more clearly against the racist incidents, and protected Özil, it was too late, the article concluded.