Mesut Özil scored on Saturday as Arsenal won to keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea. The Gelsenkirchen-born star told an English newspaper his strict upbringing and Muslim faith are key to his success.
The German playmaker opened the scoring with his eighth goal of the season, as the Gunners wrapped up a 5-1 win over London rivals West Ham. But in an interview with "The Times" published earlier that day, Özil admitted he was often mocked by his teammates in his younger footballing days because his parents could not afford to buy him a pair of flashy boots.
"They [the other players] had nice brands, the best boots, but there is nothing you can do about it," the 28-year-old said.
"In my life, maybe I don't have a lot of money, but I always had my family, always supporting me, so in this way I was very lucky. Sometimes I had to miss matches because we didn't have a car. But my parents believed in me. They always said: 'go for it'."
Özil's Turkish grandfather emigrated to Essen to work as a miner and the Germany midfielder grew up in a small apartment with his parents and three siblings. But he said the jokes of his teammates and the support of his family enabled him to become the player he is today.
"You can have the best boots, but that doesn't make you the best on the pitch," he said. "I was the best player. That gave me confidence."
The former Schalke and Werder Bremen man is regarded by most as a consummate professional and attributes that characteristic to his strong Muslim beliefs.
"Some people are getting crazy, going to nightclubs, having fun, you have this opportunity if you have money," says Özil, who made a pilgrimage to Mecca earlier this year.
"But my parents controlled it. If I went to spend lots of money, they said, 'hey, hey, what are you doing?'"
Özil was among the footballing stars named in the Football Leaks data released by German magazine "Spiegel" on Friday.
The magazine reported that Özil was forced to pay an extra two million euros to Spanish tax authorities over a financial arrangement between his agents, his former club Real Madrid and his current club. The Spanish tax bureau believed that Özil had benefited from the arrangement, the magazine alleged.