Football has come a long way. Gone are the days when only a select few can play it. Now, the sport is played by different people from different corners of the world. Its fan base has increased massively, it has even become the biggest sport.
Unfortunately, football, specifically the environment around it, still does have some issues. One of which is racism.
We might be living in the age of multiculturalism, but there are still traces of our racist past. Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil is one of those who has been victimized by this growing problem.
Because of this, Ozil decided to leave the national team and end his international football career. The reason, he said, was due to the growing criticism and racism he is receiving from the media and the national football federation.
The German player of Turkish descent took to Twitter to voice out his thoughts and plans, saying that he will not any more play for Germany. He said that he feels that he is unwanted and disrespected in Germany because of his race, thus citing racism as the main cause.
He continued saying that he received a number of criticism on many occasions, one of which was when he met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, last May.
He, together with Ilkay Gundogan of Manchester City and Cenk Tosun of Everton, who are all of Turkish descents, had a courtesy call with the Turkish President. Unfortunately, the media was quick to criticize him on a variety of things, specifically with those that deal with his race.
Erdogan had a victorious re-election campaign run after winning the position again. His presidency had a huge effect not only on Turkish politics but in their society as well as he purged many of his opponents in unconventional ways.
The President was widely criticized by numerous governments and human rights groups for the way he handled Turkey's situation. Germany was one of the staunchest critics of Erdogan’s administration.
And Ozil being a German and having met with Germany’s point of criticism caused an issue.
The German Football Federation said in a statement that they feel disappointed with how things turned out between Ozil and the national team. They said that they regret that Ozil felt he wasn’t protected by the federation from racist slogans.
The federation also used the case of Jerome Boateng as an example on how the issue should have turned out.
Knowing more about the issue
The federation added that it is important for Ozil to know that he isn’t the main and only reason why they failed in Russia because they win and lose as a team. The governing body shows that they disagree with Ozil’s decision to quit the national team just because of this issue.
In defense, Ozil clearly stated that his meeting with the Turkish president wasn’t political and didn’t have anything to do with his reelection campaign.
He added that they just talked about football, and not meeting the Turkish president would disrespect his ancestors, knowing that he is of Turkish descent.
Reports stated that Erdogan used the images of him with the football players during his reelection campaign. This caused commotion not only in the sports world but in the political situation of the two countries, thus causing the media to criticize the racial roots of Ozil.
The German Football Association was one of the first to criticize the series of photos, saying that Erdogan doesn’t support and respect the beliefs and values of Germany and its government.
And Ozil, being a German citizen and playing for the country’s football team, meeting with a President who is heavily criticized by Germany, is a sure recipe for disaster.
The association specifically stated that this is one of the situations when their international players shouldn’t meddle with political affairs, especially with Edrogan who is running for reelection in the Turkish presidency seat.
The DFB also added that Ozil’smeetup with Edrogan didn’t help their campaign on integration.
What makes things worse is that Germany failed to compete competitively in the World Cup in Russia. Die Mannschaft got defeated by the underdog South Koreans early on, crashing out of the tournament with a 2-0 score.
Ozil said that the main reason why he decided to leave the national team is because of the seemingly endless barrage of criticism that he gets from the media regarding his dual heritage.
He also added that his picture together with Erdogan caused a surprisingly huge amount of commotion, not only in Germany but in the whole world as well.
These things greatly affected his performance in the World Cup, and which ultimately caused the demise of his performance in Russia. Because of this, he feels unwanted in his team and country.
Germany had a bad run in Russia after failing to make ends meet from the high expectations they’re getting from the football community. Being the 2014 World Cup champions puts a lot of pressure on their shoulders, and unfortunately, this caused their failed attempt to win the title.
The exit of Ozil from the German national football team is a big loss on their side as he has proved numerous times how much he can help them in their offense. Ozil was named as the German Player of the Year for five times and has 5.5 chances per 90 minutes rating.
This is higher than any other player in the World Cup.
Playing for the English Premier League for Arsenal, according to him, makes it easier for him to compare his situation in the two leagues. Reports state that Ozil feels much better in England, compared to when he plays for Germany in international games.
Specifically speaking, Ozil said that the treatment that he received from the German football federation makes him not anymore wear the national team jersey of Germany.
In addition, the Arsenal midfielder stated that he was born in the country and even won the 2014 World Cup for Germany. And despite all these the people still chose to criticize him and make him feel unaccepted in the society.
He even added that he feels that he is treated differently.
All this treatment has made him wonder if it is all because of him being from Turkey, or because he is a Muslim. UliHoeness, the President of Bayern Munich, was quick to take him down, saying that while he managed to win matches before the 2014 World Cup.
He also alleges Ozil making a big deal of the photo and using it to conceal his poor performance. Using a couple of explicit words, he expressed his happiness towards Ozil’s departure, and how bad he thinks of a player he is through their national tabloid.
To explain how happy he was for Ozil’s transfer, he said that he was "the weak point" of the entire team, and this is solely from the viewpoint of sports, nothing more, nothing less.
He further goes on saying that he does not deserve a place in the national team in all the years that he has played for it. The reason why he is on the team is simply because Bayern Munich itself has been trying its best to exploit him in the recent matches between Arsenal.
One of his teammates, however, was known to give support to him. Boateng posted “It was a pleasure Abi." Ozil was also supported by Katarina Barley, the Justice Minister for Germany, who expressed such support on Twitter.
Her tweet for the football star also showed how concerned she was about racism in his own country, and how it is something worth taking as an alarm.
Despite Hoeness’ scathing remarks, support for Ozil also poured out from players from other parts of the world like Ozil’s now-teammate from Arsenal, Hector Bellerin who expressed his disbelief over such a treatment for a seasoned player.
Rio Ferdinand, a former defender for Manchester United also tweeted "massive respect," in light of Ozil’s departure. The ministers of Turkey were in approval of his actions as well, with a high official considering it to be a win versus fascism.
This official was no other than the Justice Minister himself, AbdulhamitGul.
Another tweet of support came from Mehmet Kasapoglu, who considered Ozil’s move as honorable. This tweet of his came with the photo that has caused controversy, his picture with Erdogan.
According to Ibrahim Kalin, he considers it a pity for those who think that the player’s meeting with Erdogan is multiculturalist and tolerant. He further goes on saying that Ozil has been able to give a reasonable explanation behind such a meeting.
Other supporters of Ozil came from Germany itself, with the football journalist RaphaHonigstein calling their national team a "real loser" for having lost such a great player.
He further states in Honigstein that Ozil has served as the poster boy of integration, who has served as a face of a more diverse Germany and diverse surnames that have emerged in this decade, winning the World Cup. In times when division was high, when there was a genuine sentiment shift, he was regarded as the highest profile.
Ethnicity versus Nationality has been a hot debate in the world of football lately, which was further heated up by Trevor Noah, a comedian who hails from South Africa, who joked about the World Cup being won by “Africa”, given the large number of African-descent players of the national football team of France last July 15.
He said this on the episode of his show on July 17, adding: “…but look at those guys, you don’t get that tan by hanging out in the south of France."
The joke received backlash from notable figures, one of which was Gerard Araud, who was the Ambassador to the US of France through a letter.
It was where he stated that the players of the French team simply showed the diversity of France, with the joke that the comedian was saying a manifestation of white supremacism.
The comedian, however, was quick to defend his side, saying that the joke was intended to celebrate how African the players were, instead of taking away their Frenchness. On his new team, Ozil is on a pre-season tour together with the rest of the team.
They are preparing for the International Champions Cup in Singapore, where they would be playing against Paris St. Germain of France, and Atletico Madrid of Spain.
Even if the World Cup drew to a close weeks ago, Ozil and the German national team’s losing stint, as well as his photos with RecepTayyipErdogan continue to draw controversy and keep people talking.
In the midst of all these harsh words, Ozil posted on Twitter, an explanation of what has caused him to leave the team, with the main theme of his composition being disrespect and racism.
The statement was met with condemnation, with one of the harshest critics of the said move being Fredi Bobic, one of Germany’s local publicists, who dismissed Ozil’s accusation of racism being a part of football reality, as well as disregarded what Ozil felt towards the whole issue.
Joachim Low, the team’s coach, has yet to talk about the issue at hand, and thus the chances of Ozil getting to play again in the Bundesliga remain vague at best.
On the positive side of things, however, Ozil still has Turkish roots that he can rely on, and his life as a player for the England team seems to be more significant and meaningful. Support has also been thrown by locals of Turkey, as they still consider Ozil to be their own.
The immigration of Ozil’s grandparents to Germany and their roots can all be traced back to Devrek, which is a district in the Black Sea Region. As a matter of fact, one of the avenues was named after him, apart from a sign with him and the colors of the German flag.
As of late, however, the sign bearing Ozil’s face has already been taken down, and in its place is a larger version of his photo with Erdogan that has caused so much controversy. This move was made by no other than the Devrek mayor himself, Mustafa Semerci.
While a lot of other people have regarded Ozil as brave and noble for speaking up against racism, other fans from Turkey have not come to terms with his decision.
According to Emre Sarigul, a Turkey-based football expert, some Turkey locals are black and white on the issue, saying that Ozil is Turkish, and hence should play for Turkey, not for Germany, nor for England.
According to Ozil himself, he does not conform to a standard, binary identity, and considers himself as having two hearts, one of which is German, and the other, Turkish.
While it’s been a struggle all this time for him to prove his identity as a German, his transfer, or association with Arsenal isn’t any smoother, either.
His previous stints wearing an Arsenal shirt have been labeled as "overrated" and "lazy," and there were times where fans of the team would be happier to have him elsewhere. Aside from that, criticisms left, and right continued to ensue.
There have also been commentaries regarding his traits and mannerisms, some of which are negative, with an expert in body language saying that this is what makes it hard to empathize with him.
Still, the harshest critic of them all is no other than Hoeness himself, labeling Ozil’s post-World Cup 2014 play as “crap”.
Predictably, people who were in defense of Ozil was his manager, Dr. Erkut Sogut.
He slams the comments of the German team’s president, saying that they are nothing but a diversion tactic from the issue at hand, which is discrimination and racism in Germany, which is slowly making a return in the modern society.
He goes on to say that Hoeness’ statements regarding Ozil’s football skills have not been backed up by actual evidence, and it is nothing but an exaggeration.
Sarigul of Turkish-Football.com also states that Ozil has been made into a convenient scapegoat and that each one can have their own opinion on the matter at hand. The clear thing is that Ozil was just respecting his heritage and the office of the Turkish President.
The picture was exploited by the radical thinkers and considered it a slip-up, a moment that they have been waiting for. From a German national hero, World Cup winner, as well as a role model, Ozil was transformed into an enemy of the state over an exploited photo.
The biggest loss of this all is Ozil not being able to be accepted in his own country totally, simply by not being a native of it, despite having achieved so many things for the country.
Despite all of the flak and controversies, Ozil appears to be more comfortable in his new shirt and club, who have supported him in a wholesome manner. He has even been in the running for side captain in the next season.
Unai Emery, the head coach for Arsenal believes that he needs to accept the player wholeheartedly.
Despite the love and support, and his continued excellence, now as an Arsenal Player, there are several signs that point that it may not actually be the end yet between him and Germany.
Subscribe to Sport.ONE
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox