Özil’s response to German media and Sponsors
I know that I am a footballer who has played in arguably the three toughest leagues in the world. I’ve been fortunate to receive great support from my teammates and coaching staff whilst playing in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League. And in addition, throughout my career, I’ve learnt to deal with the media.
A lot of people talk about my performances – many applaud and many criticise. If a newspaper or pundit finds fault in a game I play in, then I can accept this – I’m not a perfect footballer and this often motivates me to work and train harder. But what I can’t accept, are German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad.
Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause. Why else did they use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia? They didn’t criticise my performances, they didn’t criticise the team’s performances, they just criticised my Turkish ancestry and respect for my upbringing. This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me.
What I also find disappointing are the double standards that the media has. Lothar Matthaus (an honorary German national team captain) met with another world leader a few days back, and received almost no media criticism. Despite his role with the DFB (German national team), they have not asked him to publicly explain his actions and he continues to represent the players of Germany without any reprimand. If the media felt that I should have been left of the World Cup squad, then surely he should be stripped of his honorary captaincy? Does my Turkish heritage make me a more worthy target?
I’ve always thought that a ‘partnership’ infers support, both in the good times and also during tougher situations. Recently, I planned to visit my former school Berger-Feld in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, along with two of my charitable partners. I funded a project for one year where immigrant children, children from poor families and any other children can play football together and learn social rules for life. However, days before we were scheduled to go, I was abandoned by my so-called ‘partners’, who no longer wanted to work with me at this time. To add to this, the school told my management that they no longer wanted me to be there at this time, as they “feared the media” due to my picture with President Erdogan, especially with the “right-wing party in Gelsenkirchen on the rise”. In all honesty, this really hurt. Despite being a student of theirs back when I was younger, I was made to feel unwanted and unworthy of their time.
In addition to this, I was renounced by another partner. As they are also a sponsor of the DFB, I was asked to take part in promotional videos for the World Cup. Yet after my picture with President Erdogan, they took me out of the campaigns and cancelled all promotional activities that were scheduled. For them, it was no longer good to be seen with me and called the situation ‘crisis management’. This is all ironic because a German Ministry declared their products have illegal and unauthorized software devices in them, which puts customers at risk. Hundreds of thousands of their products are getting recalled. Whilst I was being criticised and asked to justify my actions by the DFB, there was no such official and public explanation demanded of the DFB sponsor. Why? Am I right in thinking this is worse than a picture with the President of my family’s country? What does the DFB have to say about all this?
As I said before, ‘partners’ should stick with you in all situations. Adidas, Beats and BigShoe have been extremely loyal and amazing to work with in this time. They rise above the nonsense created by the German press and media, and we carry out our projects in a professional manner that I really enjoy being part of. During the World Cup, I worked with BigShoe and helped get 23 young children life-changing surgeries in Russia, which I have also done previously in Brazil and Africa. This for me is the most important thing that I do as a football player, yet the newspapers find no space to raise awareness about this sort of thing. For them, me being booed or taking a picture with a President is more significant then helping children get surgeries worldwide. They too have a platform to raise awareness and funds, but choose not to do so.