German footballer Mesut Özil announces retirement from international football over 'racism'

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On Sunday, German footballer Mesut Özil announced retiring from international football via his official Twitter handle. The 29-year-old gave racism as the reason for his retirement.

File photo of Özil, 2011.
Image: Steindy. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Özil and his international teammate İlkay Gündoğan, who are of Turkish origin, met the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in London in May. The two players took a photo with Erdoğan, after which, many Germans reportedly booed the players prior to this year's FIFA Football World Cup in Russia. Özil said that he received hate mail and threats after meeting the Turkish president.

In his tweets, Özil said, "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. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten."

Speaking about his meeting with the Turkish president, Özil said, "Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey [...] For me, having a picture with President Erdoğan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country". Referring to the German football association's president, Reinhard Grindel, Özil said, "In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose."

Özil made his international debut on August 12, 2009, playing against Azerbaijan. Since then, he has featured in 92 matches for Germany, scoring 23 goals. Özil was part of 2014's World Cup winning squad.

"He [Mesut Özil] played a key role in Germany lifting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and so the DFB is and always will be incredibly grateful for his outstanding performances in Germany colours" ((de))German language: ‍Er hatte entscheidenden Anteil daran, dass Deutschland 2014 in Brasilien Weltmeister geworden ist. Deshalb ist und bleibt der DFB Mesut Özil für seine herausragenden Leistungen im Trikot der deutschen Nationalmannschaften sehr dankbar., the German football association Deutscher Fußball-Bund said in a statement. It also said, "The DFB regrets Mesut Özil's decision to step down from the national team." ((de))German language: ‍Der DFB bedauert den Abschied von Mesut Özil aus der Nationalmannschaft.

Özil's last match for Germany was against South Korea in this year's FIFA World Cup, which ended in a 2–0 defeat for Germany, as the 2014 winners failed to qualify for the knockout phase.