Mesut Ozil Quit German Football Team Citing “Racism”

Arsenal footballer player Mesut Ozil on Sunday said he had no regrets about his controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany’s national squad ahead of the World Cup.

Breaking his silence over the snapshot that caused outrage during the tournament, the German midfielder said in a statement on Twitter that he was true to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement.

“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said.

“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”

Ozil, 29, said he had first met Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match together in Berlin.

“Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe,” he said.

“I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”

Ozil said that despite the timing of the picture with teammate Ilkay Gundogan and Erdogan — shortly before the president won re-election in a poll endowing him with sweeping new powers — “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country”.

“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Ozil said.

“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”

Perhaps due to the outrage, Ozil has announced his retirement from international football today at the age of 29.

“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,” he wrote. “I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.”

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