BERLIN (AP) — Mesut Ozil is quitting Germany’s national team following criticism over his decision to pose for a picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a series of statements posted Sunday on Twitter, the Arsenal star announced his retirement from international football. He attacked the German football federation (DFB), its president, fans and the media, criticizing what he saw as racism and double standards in the treatment of people with Turkish roots.
Citing anti-Turkish comments from far-right politicians and fans, Ozil said he would “no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect.”
He added: “Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
The photo of Erdogan, Ozil and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan meeting in London caused an uproar in Germany two months ago.
At the time, the head of Germany’s soccer federation, Reinhard Grindel, publicly accused the players — whose families came to Germany from Turkey — of allowing themselves to be “exploited” by Erdogan for political purposes. Some German politicians questioned Ozil and Gundogan’s loyalty to Germany and suggested they should be removed from the national squad ahead of the World Cup.
Gundogan distanced himself from the photo, but Ozil refused to comment publicly until Sunday when he published a three-part statement in English which defended his actions and attacked those who have criticized him
“The picture we took had no political intentions,” said Ozil, adding that it “was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
He also took a swipe at German media who suggested that the 29-year-old midfielder was partly to blame for Germany’s shock group-stage exit from the World Cup.
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“This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me,” Ozil said, noting that there had been little criticism of former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus over a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ozil reserved his sharpest words for Grindel, however, alleging that the federation president had been “patronizing” toward the player, who was a key part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team.
“I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly,” Ozil said, claiming that Grindel had made “unforgivable and unforgettable” comments about immigrants and Muslims in the past.
On Twitter, Ozil said: “The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt.
“I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
While Ozil said he had received support from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and national team coach Joachim Low, he claimed “in the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”