Özil said his photo with Erdoğan had no political intentions

Mesut Özil, a German national team player of Turkish heritage, blamed the German media of using his background and his photograph with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for right-wing propaganda and said  their picture had no political intensions, in his two-part statement he posted on Twitter on Sunday.  

Football players Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan came under heavy criticism for posing for a photo with Turkish President Erdoğan, which was posted on Justice and Development Party (AKP) official Twitter account during Erdoğan’s three-day UK visit in May.

“I am 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,” Özil said. According to Özil, the picture was a proof of his respect to the highest office in Turkey and his meeting with President Erdoğan did not mean endorsement of any policy.

“Although the German media have portrayed something different, the truth is that not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors, who I know would be proud of where I am today,” Özil added.

Özil noted that in most cultures it was difficult to separate a political leader from the person, but underlined that his case was different. “Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture,” he said. 

In the second part of his statement, Özil said that the German media repeatedly blamed his dual heritage and a simple picture for the German national team’s failure in the World Cup. 

“Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdoğan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause,” Özil said. 

Özil also added that, after his picture with Erdoğan, his charity activities were being cancelled and his partners and sponsors had renounced him.