Just days after Germany returned home from being humiliated at the World Cup, German football association (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel demanded a public statement from Mesut Ozil about the Arsenal star’s pre-tournament meeting with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Sunday, Grindel received exactly what he asked for. But it was definitely not what he wanted or expected from the 93-time Germany international.
In a lengthy three-part statement, released section-by-section during the course of the day, Ozil meticulously detailed his account of his meeting with Erdogan, the media criticism that followed and then launched into a scathing attack on Grindel and his supporters before confirming his international retirement.
The statement was strong, considered and showed exactly why the 29-year-old took such time to react to his treatment following Germany’s World Cup exit. For the first time in 80 years, Germany had failed to get out of their group at the tournament, but instead of placing the blame on head coach Joachim Low or introspectively assessing what the DFB could have done better before and during the competition, Ozil was turned into a scapegoat by not only the media, but by people inside his own football association including general manager Oliver Bierhoff and Grindel.
Ahead of the World Cup, Ozil and team-mate Ilkay Gundogan – both of whom have Turkish roots – were photographed with Erdogan in London, sparking outcry from pundits and media who criticised the star for mixing football and politics. Gundogan admitted that the meeting was not political, with Ozil’s initial statement on Sunday confirming that his intentions were also not motivated by politics, merely respecting the position of president and the country of his ancestors.
“In May, I met President Erdogan in London, during a charitable and educational event. We first met in 2010 after he and Angela Merkel watched the Germany vs Turkey match together in Berlin,” the statement read.
“Since then, out paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe. I’m 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.”
Despite distancing himself from the situation before and during the World Cup, Ozil continued to be criticised and this vitriol only increased after Germany’s shock exit. Fans booed him during a pre-tournament friendly against Austria, while his decision not to sing the national anthem while playing in Russia was also repeatedly highlighted. When he was dropped from the starting XI against Sweden, commentators in Germany pointed out how all 11 players were singing the anthem.
III / III pic.twitter.com/c8aTzYOhWU
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
In his final statement, where he confirmed his retirement, Ozil cited racism as one of the reasons for his decision, referencing times where he was abused for his ancestry, including an instance where he was called a “goat-f***er” by a prominent politician.
“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,” Ozil wrote.
“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement but now I don’t. This decision has been extremely difficult to make because I have always given everything for my team-mates, the coaching staff and the good people of Germany.
“But when high-ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough. That is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
Between his debut in 2009 and his final appearance in June, Ozil played almost 100 times for Germany, helping them win the World Cup in 2014 and even was voted as Germany’s national player of the year on five separate occasions.
To claim he is anything other than 100 per cent committed to Germany is madness, but Grindel should not be surprised by Sunday’s statement. With the way he has been treated by the DFB and the media in his own country, why would someone as talented as Ozil continue to play for a team who does not respect him?
Since the World Cup, nobody within the DFB has lost their job and the head coach has been retained, while Ozil has been victimised with the larger problems that led to their Russian failure ignored and brushed aside.
A lot of the decision-making around Germany’s 2018 World Cup was wrong, including the choice of base camp, the choice to leave the likes of Leroy Sane and Sandro Wagner at home, the choices around the starting XIs in each group game…
The DFB and Germany got many choices wrong, but most of all, they left Ozil with no choice other than this one.