Mesut Özil has blamed unfair discrimination over his meeting with the Turskish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in May for his decision to retire from international football with immediate effect.
Özil was a member of the Germany squad that went out of the World Cup finals in Russia at the group stage and faced heavy criticism for his both performances and his meeting with Erdoğan, who has been accused of human rights abuses and has been outspoken about German politics as well.
The Arsenal midfielder has Turkish ancestry but grew up in Germany and defended his right to meet Erdoğan in a lengthy statement in which he also attacked the German football federation (DFB). “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,” Özil wrote on Twitter.
“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies. The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt. I feel unwanted and think what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
Making direct reference to Reinhard Grindel, president of the DFB, Özil added: “People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual‑heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose.
“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.”
Özil continued to criticise Grindel. “I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly,” Özil wrote.
“I am disappointed but not surprised by [Grindel’s] actions,” the 29-year-old added. “But when high-ranking DFB officials disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough.”
The 29-year-old’s decision was attacked by the Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who told SportBild “Ozil has been playing shit for years. He won his last tackle before the 2014 World Cup. All he is doing on the field is playing cross passes. Now he hides himself and his crap performance behind this photo.
“Whenever we played against Arsenal, we played over him, because we knew he was the weak point.”
Özil did not respond to Hoeness’s comments but said he had received abuse online, and claimed he was racially abused by a supporter after the match against Sweden.
“A German fan told me after the game, ‘Özil, fuck off you Turkish shit, piss off you Turkish pig.’ I don’t want to even discuss the hate mail, threatening phone calls and comments on social media that my family and I have received.
“They all represent a Germany of the past, a Germany that I am not proud of. I am confident that many proud Germans who embrace an open society would agree with me.”