In his own words: Why Mesut Özil quit the German football team
In quitting the German national football team, Mesut Özil attacked the German Football Association, its President and double standards in Germany’s media and society. Here are his key quotes
Months after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Germany footballer and Arsenal star Mesut Özil has quit the German national football team. Özil and international teammate Ilkay Gündogan's meeting with the hard-line Turkish leader caused a stir before the World Cup, but Özil said he had no regrets.
The 29-year-old issued three lengthy and hard hitting statements on Twitter, in which he singled out German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel. Özil said he would "no longer stand for being a scapegoat for [Grindel's] incompetence and inability to do his job properly. "In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," he added. "I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten. "Despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being 'different'."
Özil on the German national football team and its President Reinhard Grindel
— "Whilst I attempted to explain to Grindel my heritage, ancestry and therefore reasoning behind the photo, he was far more interested in speaking about his own political views and belittling my opinion."
— "I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for [Grindel's] incompetence and ability to do his job properly. I know that he wanted me out of the team after the picture, and publicised his view on Twitter without any thinking or consultation, but Joachim Löw and Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and backed me."
Özil on racism and xenophobia
— "In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose. This is because despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being 'different'."
— "Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit? My friends Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish?"
— "I was born and educated in Germany, so why don't people accept that I am German?"
Özil on double standards in the German press
— "What I can't accept are German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad."
— "Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause. Why else did they use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia?"
— "They didn't criticise my performances, they didn't criticise the team's performances, they just criticised my Turkish ancestry and respect for my upbringing. This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me."
— "What I also find disappointing are the double standards that the media has. Lothar Matthaus met with another world leader [Russian President Vladimir Putin] a few days back and received almost no media criticism."
Özil on Erdogan
— "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.
— "For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country. My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies.
— "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."