Mesut Ozil’s decision to immediately retire from the German national team has caused shockwaves online after the Arsenal star accused the German Football Association [DFB] of racism and treating him as “a German when we win, and an immigrant when we lose”.
Mesut Ozil, who is considered one of the greatest midfielder’s of his generation, made the announcement on Sunday in a lengthy statement posted on Twitter.
The 29-year-old Muslim footballer said he felt singled out for the failure of the German team to advance beyond the group stage at the 2018 World Cup, because of his Turkish heritage and his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.
In the posts, Ozil, a 2014 World cup winner, further explained how he felt he was perceived by DFB President Reinhard Grindel during victory and during defeat.
“The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt,” said Ozil, who made 92 appearances for the national team.
“I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.
“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 … Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
The DFB has yet to comment on Ozil’s claims.
Ozil also cited statements from German politicians, racist taunts from fans and hate mail as examples of the hostile climate he and his family faced leading up to his decision.
But it was comments about being seen as German when the team wins and an immigrant when it loses that circulated widely on social media, after several prominent European players of foreign descent cited the same grievance.
Ozil said he could not accept “German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad”.
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium’s leading scorer during the World Cup, wrote in a Player’s Tribune article last month: “When things were going well, I was reading newspapers articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker. When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent”.
France and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said in 2011: “If I score I’m French … if I don’t, I’m an Arab”.
Thousands took to Twitter to support Mesut Ozil and lay scorn at the abuse Muslim and African players are subjected to in Europe, with the hashtag #IStandWithOzil becoming a trending topic worldwide.
Twitter user Joey Ayoub wrote of the unfair and unrealistic expectations placed on migrants – particularly Muslim migrants to prove themselves, citing the case of Mamoudou Gassama after he rescued a toddler hanging from a French balcony.
Gassama exceptionalism was celebrated in the French press and due to his bravery he was awarded French citizenship by President Emmanuel Macron.
“If only Ozil had saved a baby from a building while simultaneously being one of their best football players,” Ayoub tweeted.
Ronan Murphy, a journalist at the football website, Goal.com, said it was “the right decision given the way he’s been scapegoated by the DFB”.
Cannot blame Mesut Ozil for retiring from the Germany national team. Absolutely the right decision given the way he’s been scapegoated by the DFB. Hopefully it will lead to some departures there as they take a long, hard look at themselves. #GER #DieMannschaft #AFC
Several prominent German politicians criticised Ozil and Manchester City’s German international Ilkay Gundogan for meeting with Erdogan, but failed to register loud condemnation of Lothar Matthaus shaking hands and posing for photos with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Twitter user Shazad Amin said it showed how “structural Islamophobia operates at even the highest level in sport”
Jan Aage Fjortoft hailed Mesut Ozil for his contributions to the German national side, and sarcastically congratulated those who “bullied” him into his retirement.
Özil has just announced his retirement from the German National Team.
Congratulations to all the people who have bullied him in to this decision.
Congratulations to those who said he was the reason for a bad German World Cup.
Thanx @MesutOzil1088 for a great career for Germany
Meanwhile Zito, a writer at SBNation, said it was “stupid” that the “bigots” had won.
“Him being in that team was so irritating to them and their conception of German identity, and now he’s been forced to retire because the environment has become unbearable,” Zito tweeted.
I thought it was dumb that Ozil took that picture but his reasoning is understandable. The fallout from it though was so predictable because the criticisms of him in the German team has been bigotry disguised as analysis. It never really mattered what he did, he wasn’t wanted.
What really makes this so stupid is that the bigots win. They’ve finally gotten rid of Ozil. Him being in that team was so irritating to them and their conception of German identity, and now he’s been forced to retire because the environment has become unbearable.
A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office described Ozil as a great football player who had done a lot for the national team, before adding that the majority of the roughly 3 million people with Turkish roots who live in Germany were “well integrated”.
However, others took to Twitter to heavily criticise the player, with Thomas Bareiss, a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, saying his resignation showed “disrespect” and was “misplaced”.
Meanwhile, Uli Hoeness, the former president of Bayern Munich, revealed his joy, claiming the Arsenal man has been “s*** for years”.
Hoeness, who was sentenced to three and a half years for tax fraud in 2014, told the German newspaper Bild: “Ozil last won a tackle before the 2014 World Cup. And now he and his s***** performance hide beyond this picture”.