Mesut Ozil says racism in Germany has ‘shifted to the middle of society’ as he again defends controversial picture with Turkish president that saw him quit German national team feeling ‘disrespected and unprotected’
- Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial picture with Turkish president
- The Arsenal playmaker met Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup in 2018
- Ozil received a torrent of racial abuse following Germany’s flop at the World Cup
- As a result the 31-year-old retired from international football
- He now says that racism is becoming mainstream in German society
The 31-year-old insists he has no regrets over posing for the photograph, despite becoming the target of racist abuse in the wake of his country’s shock World Cup exit in 2018.
Ozil came under heavy criticism for his picture with Erdogan, who has been described as a modern-day dictator by his harshest critics and his three-day London visit last year was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.
Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial snap with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
In recent days he has sparked international condemnation for launching a military incursion into Syria to fight what he claims are terrorists among the Kurds living there.
Ozil, who was born in Germany but has Turkish heritage, presented Erdogan with a signed Arsenal shirt during their meeting and insists he will respect anyone in the ‘highest position’ of a country, whether that is Turkey, Germany or another nation.
‘[Erdogan] is the current president of Turkey and I would show respect to that person, whoever it was,’ Ozil told The Athletic. ‘Although I was born and raised in Germany, Turkey is part of my heritage.
‘If the German president or [Chancellor] Angela Merkel are in London and ask to see me, to speak to me, of course I would do that as well. It’s just about showing respect to the highest position of a country.’
Following the meeting with the Turkish president, which was also attended by Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil insisted he felt ‘unprotected’ by claiming that no-one stood up for him after he received abuse for the snap.
(Left to right) Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil, Erdogan and Cenk Tosun pose for a photo in May 2018
‘After the photo, I felt disrespected and unprotected. I was receiving racist abuse — even from politicians and public figures — yet nobody from the national team came out at that time and said, “Hey, stop. This is our player, you can’t insult him like that”. Everyone just kept quiet and let it happen.’
Ozil also said he received vile abuse for the photo before insisting that his country as a problem with racism. The Gunners playmaker went on…