German football star Mesut Ozil quits national team citing this reason

BERLIN: Mesut Ozil, one of the most well-known current active footballers said Sunday announced that he was quitting the German national football team, a month-and-a-half after his photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked a controversy.

The 29-year-old Muslim footballer wrote a lengthy statement in English posted on his Twitter account.

“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. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement but now I don’t.”

In a three-part statement on Twitter, Ozil, a 2014 World cup winner, slammed DFB president Reinhard Grindel, who he accused of trying to benefit his own political views. He also accused the DFB president of racism.

“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”

“Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit?” Ozil asked. “My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim?” I think here lays an important issue,” he said.

Germany is home to more than three million people of Turkish origin.

Ozil, who has Turkish roots, had earlier defended his decision to pose for a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May which sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany’s squad ahead of the World Cup in Russia.

This handout picture taken on May 13 and released on May 14 by the Turkish Presidential Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan posing for a photo with German footballer of Turkish origin Mesut Ozil. AFP

“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” added Ozil who is often seen bestowing his thanks to the Almighty on the football pitch.

Since his debut in 2009, Ozil has appeared in 92 matches for Germany’s national team, scoring 23 goals. He was part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad in 2014.A

Ozil was also part of the German squads which reached the semi-finals of 2014 World Cup and two European Championships in 2012 and 2016.

AFP inputs