Turkey′s Erdogan praises Mesut Özil′s decision to quit German team | News | DW | 24.07.2018
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Turkey's Erdogan praises Mesut Özil's decision to quit German team

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the "racist" mistreatment of footballer Mesut Özil, saying he spoke with him on the phone. Özil had been heavily criticized for meeting with Erdogan before the World Cup.

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Erdogan on Özil affair: 'Such racist treatment is unacceptable'

German-Turkish football star Mesut Özil spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone after he quit Germany's national team, the Turkish leader told reporters in parliament on Tuesday.

Özil's decision to leave Germany's national football team sparked a debate in Germany about racism in the German football association (DFB) and integration in German society.

Resignation statement was 'patriotic:' 

  • The Turkish leader criticized the mistreatment Özil faced, saying: "Such a racist treatment towards a young man who has given his all to the German national team for his religious beliefs is unacceptable."
  • Erdogan said Özil's statement about why he was leaving the German team was "completely patriotic."
  • He added that he'd spoken with the Özil on Monday.

Criticism over Erdogan meet-and-greet: The Turkish leader said that Özil's critics "could not stomach" a photograph that the two took together in May. Özil, who plays for Arsenal, and fellow Germany player Ilkay Gündogan met with Erdogan in a hotel in London while the Turkish president was visiting the UK ahead of elections in Turkey. German politicians and rights groups have accused Erdogan of trying to undermine Turkish democracy and ignoring the human rights of his opponents.

Özil and Gündogan faced criticism in Germany over the meeting, particularly from DFB president Reinhard Grindel and DFB team manager Oliver Bierhoff. Grindel, who is a former conservative politician, blamed Germany's poor performance at the 2018 World Cup on Özil's meeting with Erdogan.

'I'm an immigrant when we lose:' In three hard-hitting statements on Twitter, Özil announced he was leaving the German national team on Sunday, saying he felt "unwanted" and would no longer be a "scapegoat" for DFB head Grindel. He also decried the double standards in German media and society who are quick to point out his Turkish heritage. "In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," he said.

Debate over racism in Germany: Özil's resignation sparked a massive debate in Germany, particularly about the spread of xenophobic attitudes within the DFB, as well as latent racism in society. The debate also shook the image of Germany's national team, which was previously held up as a model of diversity and successful integration of people with foreign backgrounds.

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Germans react to Özil’s departure

rs/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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