May 15 2018

German soccer players under fire for meeting Turkish president

Two top German national soccer players have come under criticism from Germany's DFB soccer federation and several German politicians for posing for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which they claim could be used as a political campaign tool, eurosport website reported.

Mesut Özil, who plays for Arsenal, and İlkay Gündoğan, who plays for Manchester City, posed for a picture with the Turkish president on Sunday in London during Erdoğan’s three-day U.K. visit. Erdoğan’s leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) shared the pictures on its official Twitter site.

DFB President Reinhard Grindel noted that while the federation respected the special situation of the players, both of whom have Turkish roots, the players had been used by Erdoğan in his presidential campaign for the elections slated for June 24, the site said.

Grindel took to Twitter to say, "Football and the DFB stand for values that are not sufficiently respected by Mr Erdogan," and added, ‘’Our players have not helped our integration work."

Veteran Greens lawmaker Cem Özdemir, who also has Turkish roots, described the photos of the players as being ‘’tasteless and embarrassing.’’

Social Democrat deputy leader Ralf Stegner said," Posing with the Turkish president is not exemplary behaviour and is not appropriate for German national players."

A commentary in Germany’s top-selling Bild, which ran the photos on its front page, even went as far as saying: "If you have a moral position, you don't laugh into the camera with Erdogan. The main question is whether the two German national players still fit into our German team. I say yes. They are political idiots. But football geniuses."

Gündogan later said that he did not intend to make a political statement or get involved in an election campaign.

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary election next month will usher in a new constitutional system, allowing the president much more extensive powers.

TFF Turkish Football Federation Vice President Servet Yardimci, a UEFA Executive Committee member, noted that Erdoğan enjoyed meeting soccer players but that Özil and Gündoğan were not part of the election campaign, eurosport said.