Mesut Özil has retired from the German national team effective immediately. Özil concluded his three-part statement on Sunday by laying out in detail his mistreatment at the hands of the DFB and specifically DFB President Reinhard Grindel.
Özil explains that he did meet with Grindel before the World Cup to discuss “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.” They agreed to put everything aside and just focus on preparing for the World Cup. Özil deemed the issue finished, especially after Oliver Bierhoff publicly declared it over before the friendly against Saudi Arabia prior to the World Cup.
He notes that Grindel was angry at being left out of a meeting with Özil, Frank-Walter Steinmeier — the President of Germany, and İlkay Gündoğan. When the three agreed to release a joint statement on the matter, Grindel was upset that he didn’t get to lead the way.
Then, Özil didn’t hold back.
Since the end of the World Cup, Grindel has come under much pressure regarding his decisions before the tournament started, and rightly so. Recently, he has publicly said I should once again explain my actions and puts me at fault for the poor team results in Russia, despite telling me it was over in Berlin. I am speaking now not for Grindel, but beacause I want to. I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability 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 Low and Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and backed me. 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’. I received the ‘Bambi Award’ in 2010 as an example of successful integration to German society, I received a ‘Silver Laurel Leaf’ in 2014 from the Federal Republic of Germany, and I was a ‘German Football Ambassador’ in 2015. But clearly, I am not German...? Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit? My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue. By being referred to as German-Turkish, it is already distinguishing people who have family here from more than on country. I was born and educated in Germany, so why don’t people accept that I am German?
Unfortunately, dual-nationals being “othered’ isn’t a new thing. In 2011, Karim Benzema told So Foot [via PRI] “Basically, if I score, I’m French. And if I don’t score or there are problems, I’m Arab.” In June of this year, Romelu Lukaku wrote in The Player’s Tribune, “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.”
(As a warning, the below statements contain offensive language but were kept verbatim in an effort to communicate the exact language and behavior described by Özil.)
Özil then called out politicians like the SPD’s Bernd Holzhauer who called him and Gündoğan “goat-fuckers”, Chief of German Theatre Werner Steer who said they should “piss off to Anatolia”, and the Germany fan who told him “Özil, fuck off you Turkish shit, piss off you Turkish pig”. He adds that is not even mentioning the “hate mail, threatening phone calls, and comments on social media” against he and his family.
Grindel comes under fire once more, as Özil reminds everyone that Grindel spoke out against multiculturalism and dual nationals when he was a member of German Parliament saying that “multiculturalism is in reality a myth [and] a lifelong lie”, voting against legislation for dual-nationals, and attacks on Muslims and the Islamic faith.
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. People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has many players from dual-heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent.
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. This decision has been extremely difficult to make because I have always given everything for my teammates, 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.
It’s a shame that a brilliant international career ends like this. Özil retires as one of the best German players of his generation. He won the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and the 2014 World Cup. He was the Germany national team player of the year on five different occasions: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016. And he was named to the Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament.
Read his full statement below.