German football federation denies Mesut Ozil's 'racism' claims

DFB insists footballer should explain Erdogan meeting, as Turkish and German politicians slam treatment Ozil received.

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    Ozil, who quit the German team, says he was targeted because of his Turkish roots and his photos with Erdogan [Twitter]
    Ozil, who quit the German team, says he was targeted because of his Turkish roots and his photos with Erdogan [Twitter]

    The German Football Federation (DFB) has refuted Mesut Ozil's accusations of "racism" and repeated that the midfielder should explain his photos with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Ozil quit German national team on Sunday, claiming that he faced "racism" and was singled out as a scapegoat for World Cup exit because of his Turkish origins and meeting Erdogan in May.

    In its response to Ozil on Monday, the DFB has insisted Ozil should have "provided answers" for his photo with Erdogan, adding that the pictures "raised questions for many people in Germany".

    "The DFB would have been happy if Mesut Ozil remained in the team, but he has chosen otherwise.

    "We respect that and it is a sign of respect that we leave some of the statements that we do not agree with in terms of content and tone uncommented in public. We emphatically reject the DFB being linked to racism," it said.

    "The DFB regrets Mesut Ozil's decision to step down from the national team. But it does not affect the association's determination to continue its successful work on integration."

    The Arsenal star's strong lengthy statement had said: "It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of the recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level while I have this feeling of racism and disrespect." 

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    "I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don't," he said in the statement posted on Twitter, and added that he feels "unwanted," citing anti-Turkish racist comments from right-wing politicians, media and fans.

    He said: "Racism should never, ever be accepted."

    Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, another Turkish-German playing for Manchester City, posed with Erdogan during the president's visit to Britain in May, which was slammed by various German politicians and media organisations.

    'Racism and discrimination'

    Politicians from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as well Germany's Green Party leaders have condemned the 'racist' treatment Ozil received in the wake of the shock exit of German team from the Word Cup in Russia.

    Ravza Kavakci Kan, a vice chairperson of Erdogan's party, said what happened to Ozil is the latest example of rise of "racism and discrimination" in Germany.  

    "It is sad that this situation has reached as far as sports in Germany. A citizen should be treated the same with others, as long as he or she abides by the rules of a country and contributes to the society of the same country," she told Al Jazeera.

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    "There are racist people in every country, but politicians with common sense, respect for human rights and dedication to European values they always talk about should be protecting valuable people like Ozil against racism and discrimination," she said.

    "He is openly targeted for his origins and merely having a photo with the president of the country of his family. In the ages we are living, racism in Europe is carried out predominantly against Muslims, but not other immigrants. And this shows how hypocritical the approach of German officials and media is to the issue."

    The midfieder claimed that other Germans, such as Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, who have Polish roots are never referred to as "German-Polish", while he is referred to as "German-Turkish".

    "Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I'm a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue," he said in his statement.

    Ozil played a key role in World Cup-winning German national team in 2014. Fans have voted him the team's player of the year five times since 2011.

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    However, the team failed to qualify from the group stage, making one of their earliest exits from the tournament for which Ozil was singled out and targeted.

    The criticism over his World Cup performance has been combined with his photo with Erdogan by many, including DFB president Reinhard Grindel.

    "It is a scandal how DFB treated Mesut Ozil, a person who contributed immensely to German football and saw multiple championship victories," said Ozcan Mutlu, a German MP with Turkish origins from the Green Party.

    "The way he was singled out and made a scapegoat is a disgrace for Germany and German football."

    Follow Umut Uras @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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