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Mesut Ozil retires from international football citing racism of German Media, DFB and fans

Mesut Ozil has ended his German national team career with a heavy and scathing note to the mistreatment and racial abuse he undergone from German authorities, media and fans after a controversial meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.

Ozil released three strongly worded statements to inform his decision. In the first part of his statement, which was tweeted to his 23 million Twitter followers, Ozil insists that there was no political motivation behind his meeting with Erdogan.

Ozil’s Retirement statement in full

Arguably the issue that has frustrated me the most over the past couple of months has been the mistreatment from the DFB, and in particular the DFB President Reinhard Grindel. After my picture with President Erdogan I was asked by Joachim Low to cut short my holiday and go to Berlin and give a joint statement to end all the talk and set the record straight. Whilst I attempted to explain to Grindel my heritage, ancestry and therefore reasoning behind the photo, he was far more interested in speaking about his own political views and belittling my opinion. Whilst his actions were patronising, we came to agree that the best thing to do was to concentrate on football and the upcoming World Cup. This is why I did not attend the DFB media day during the World Cup preparations. I knew journalists discussing politics and not football would just attack me, even though the whole issue was deemed to be over by Oliver Bierhoff in a TV interview he did before the Saudi Arabia game in Leverkusen.

During this time, I also met with the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Unlike Grindel, President Steinmeier was professional and actually was interested in what I had to say about my family, my heritage and my decisions. I remember that the meeting was only between myself, Ilkay and President Steinmeier, with Grindel being upset that he wasn’t allowed inside to boost his own political agenda. I agreed with President Steinmeier that we would release a joint statement about the matter, in another attempt to move forward and focus on football. But Grindel was upset that it wasn’t his team releasing the first statement, annoyed that Steinmeier’s press office had to take lead on this matter.

Since the end of the World Cup, Grindel has come under much pressure regarding his decisions before the tournament started, and rightly so. Recently, he has publicly said I should once again explain my actions and puts me at fault for the poor team results in Russia, despite telling me it was over in Berlin. I am speaking now not for Grindel, but because I want to. I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly. I know that he wanted me out the team after the picture, and publicised his view on Twitter without any thinking or consultation, but Joachim Low and Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and backed me. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose. This is because despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being ‘different. I received the’Bambi Award’ in 2010 as an example of successful integration to German society, I received a ‘Silver Laurel Leaf’ in 2014 from the Federal Republic of Germany, and I was a ‘German Football Ambassador’ in 2015. But clearly, I am not German…? Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit? My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue. By being referred to as German-Turkish, it is already distinguishing people who have family from more than one country. I was born and educated in Germany, So why don’t people accept that I’m a German?

Grinder’s opinions can be found elsewhere too. I was called by Bernd Holzhauer (a German politician) a “goat-f.ker” because of my picture with President Erdogan and my Turkish background. Furthermore, Werner Steer (Chief of German Theatre) told me to “piss off to Anatolia”, a place in Turkey where many immigrants are based. As I have said before, criticising and abusing me because of family ancestry is a disgraceful line to cross, and using discrimination as a tool for political propaganda is something that should immediately result in the resignation of those disrespectful individuals.These people have used my picture with President Erdogan as an opportunity to express their previously hidden racist tenden¬cies, and this is dangerous for society. They are no better than the German fan who told me after the game against Sweden “Ozil, verpiss Dich Du scheiss Ttirkensau.Tiirkenschwein hau ab”, or in English “Ozil, fk off you Turkish s*t, piss of 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 not open to new cultures, and a Germany that I am not proud of. I am confident that many proud Germans who embrace an open society would agree with me.

To you, Reinhard Grindel, I am disappointed but not surprised by your actions. In 2004 whilst you were a German member of Parliament, you claimed that “multiculturalism is in reality a myth [and] a lifelong lie”whilst you voted against legislation for dual-nationalities and punishments for bribery, as well as saying that Islamic culture has become too ingrained in many German cities. This is unforgivable and unforgettable.

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 that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten. People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has many players from dual-heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent.

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 teammates, 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.

Mesut Ozil

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