German midfielder Mesut Özil broke silence Sunday and posted a statement via Twitter regarding his meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan. The Arsenal player said that his connection with the Turkish leader is about football, not politics.
The controversy struck in May when both Özil and national team teammate İlkay Gündoğan met with Erdoğan in London, posing for pictures. Both players are of Turkish descent but born in Gelsenkirchen.
Özil made it clear that the bond between himself and the Turkish leader is about the game and recognizing the leader of his heritage.
“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Özil said. “In fact, we spoke about the same topic we do every time we have met — football — as he too was a player in his youth.”
The past couple of weeks have given me time to reflect, and time to think over the events of the last few months. Consequently, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about what has happened. pic.twitter.com/WpWrlHxx74— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
Özil also said that Erdoğan as an individual was not the motive, but “respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
Both players were jeered even prior to the tournament during Germany’s training camp and friendly matches against Austria and Saudi Arabia. It seemed to get under Özil’s skin when the German no. 10 got into a scuffle with angry fans in Germany’s final match in Russia.
Özil added in a second tweet that he felt his dual-heritage has become the scapegoat for his and his team’s performance.
Özil blasts German media and DFB for its double-standard
A lot of people talk about my performances— many applaud and many criticise. If a newspaper or pundit finds fault in a game I play in, then I accept this— I’m not a perfect footballer and this often motivates me to work and train harder. But what I can’t accept are Germany media outlets reportedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad.
Off the pitch, Özil blames the German media for their poor choice of reporting, saying that his partnership with companies like BigShoe go unnoticed.
They rise above the nonsense created by the German press and media, we carry out our projects in a professional manner thar I really enjoy being a part of. During the World Cup, I worked with BigShoe and helped get 23 young children life-changing surgeries in Russia, which I have also done in Brazil and Africa.
With German media causing most of the trouble, German football’s governing body Deutscher Fussball-Bund must take some blame as well. Specifically, DFB President and former politician Reinhard Grindel. The president said that Özil “made a mistake.”
However, Özil is not the first to controversially meet with a world leader. Just ask Lothar Matthäus.
Matthäus, a former Germany captain and two-time Bayern Munich midfielder, met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin recently, but German media did not cover the encounter to the extent they did with Özil. This displeased Mesut:
What I also find disappointing are the double standards that the media has. Lothar Matthäus (an honorary German national team captain met with another world leader a few days back, and received almost no media criticism. Despite his role with the DFB, they have not asked him to publicly explain his actions and he continues to represent the players of Germany without any reprimand.
A third part of Özil’s comprehensive statement has yet to be released. Some journalists — such as Tobias Altschäffl — are already speculating that Özil may announce his resignation from the German national team.
Özil posted his response at the end of his holiday and is included in Arsenal’s summer tour squad. The Gunners will set up shop in Singapore where they will play Atletico Madrid Thursday to start the International Champions Cup.
At 29-years-old, Özil’s time as a crucial starter for Die Mannschaft may have passed but his involvement with the national team and as a cornerstone for Arsenal FC mustn't be written off.