‘We missed the time to meet with the player’: German FA admit ‘mistakes’ over Mesut Ozil’s photo with controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and ensuing racism storm that led to Arsenal outcast’s international retirement after 2018 World Cup
The German FA have admitted to making ‘mistakes’ in their handling of the fallout from Mesut Ozil’s decision to meet with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.
Ozil and international team-mate Ilkay Gundogan, both of Turkish descent, sparked outrage in their homeland when they were pictured with the controversial head of state in Turkey.
The German FA have admitted they made mistakes in the fallout that followed Mesut Ozil’s photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018
Ozil became a scapegoat as Germany were dumped out of the World Cup in the first-round
The Arsenal outcast retired from the national side in the aftermath, and hit out at the ‘racism and disrespect’ that came his way.
German FA general secretary Friedrich Curtis has now admitted that they made errors in their handling of the matter, and that they neglected to meet with Ozil to discuss the situation with him.
He said at a meeting with young scholars at the Deutschland-Stiftung Integration: ‘The DFB made mistakes in dealing with the events surrounding the Ozil case.
‘A photo became a burning glass for many topics.
‘The moment there were racist allegations, we missed the time to meet with the player.’
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 in 2018 was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.
He said in a lengthy statement when he announced his retirement: ‘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 team-mates, 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.’
Ozil has defended his decision to meet with the president and have a picture taken as he presented him with a signed Arsenal shirt.
‘[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.
‘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.’