Mesut Özil recently announced his retirement from international football with immediate effect in an astonishing attack on German Football Federation (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel.
The German international was heavily criticized by the German fans, media and DFB alike after meeting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup. The Arsenal talisman, who has Turkish heritage, explained on Sunday that his meeting with controversial figure Erdogan ‘had no political intentions’.
In the second part of a three-part statement, Özil hit out at the DFB over its handling of the incident, suggesting the Erdogan meeting has been cited unfairly as a factor in Germany’s group-stage exit at Russia 2018. The lengthy letter also saw him make inflammatory accusations against German politicians and some fans, as he elaborated on how he felt his Turkish roots had been disrespected and how he was subjected to racism.
And in the concluding section of the statement later on Sunday, Özil confirmed he will no longer be available for selection by Germany coach Joachim Low, pointing the finger at Grindel for being ‘patronizing’ and ‘incompetent’, as well as accusing him of belittling the midfielder’s opinion.
“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 while I have this feeling of disrespect.”
– Mesut Ozil
However, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeneß appears to have no sympathy for the playmaker, and actually thinks Özil’s retirement will be a good thing for the German national team.
“Özil has been playing sh*t for years,”
– Hoeneß told German outlet SportBild.
Bayern goalkeeper Neuer, though, acknowledged the right of the former Real Madrid star to walk away, and feels Germany’s poor performance in Russia has inflated the issue.
“If both of them [Özil and Gundogan] or all of the players performed great at the World Cup we wouldn’t stand here and talk about this,
It’s the decision of [each individual] player.
When another player is saying that he wants to [retire] it’s his own decision. You have to search [for] the reasons on your own then and in that case, he has found them.
We’re accepting this decision of course.”
Özil suggested he was made a scapegoat due to his Turkish heritage, according to ESPN News.
“When we win, I’m German. If we lose, I’m an immigrant.”
There must be genuine concerns that the anti-immigrant vibe that comes from the very top of the DFB has an influence on the general public, who are already incredibly vocal whenever a player with foreign parents or grandparents dares not to sing the German national anthem.
On a footballing level, the Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Jérôme Boateng and Leroy Sané of tomorrow may feel the need to question whether or not they really want to play for Germany, rather than the countries of their parents or their grandparents. Ultimately, however, World Cup winner Özil’s 92 caps for his country are not enough. He isn’t German enough for certain poisonous sections of German society.
He has bravely spoken up against that and that’s worthy of praise and attention but tackling the issues he has highlighted and the troubles he has faced is a bigger test.