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Turkey's Erdogan decries 'racist attitude' against Ozil

"I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose" [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 July, 2018

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Erdogan: "truly unacceptable that a young man who has given everything to the German national team is facing such a racist attitude because of his religion."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he spoke with Mesut Ozil after the midfielder's retirement from playing for Germany. He decried the "racist attitude" Ozil faces.

Ozil announced his international retirement on Sunday, weeks after Germany's first-round World Cup exit. He was criticised for posing for photos with Erdogan before the tournament and Turkish elections.

Ozil criticised the German football federation, its president, fans and media for what he regarded as racism in how people with Turkish roots were treated. He defended the Erdogan meeting.

Erdogan told Turkish journalists on Tuesday he spoke to Ozil on Monday. He said in Ankara it's "truly unacceptable that a young man who has given everything to the German national team and has contributed to its success is facing such a racist attitude because of his religion."

The Turkish Football Federation also issued a statement, saying it "offers its full support" to Ozil and his family. It also condemned "the treatment, threats and derogatory messages" against Ozil and asked the football community to stand united against "racism and intolerance."

Ozil, whose parents are of Turkish origin, said he was also blamed for Germany crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages.  

The forward said Germans were quick to forget the key role he played when Germany lifted the World Cup in 2014. 

"I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil said in a lengthy statement published online.

"I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don't. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten."

The image of the midfielder, standing alongside Erdogan in May, sparked controversy in Germany with many questioning Ozil's loyalties to his home country's democratic values.

But the Arsenal star dismissed the questioning as a typically racist overview of those with dual nationalities.

"Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I'm a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue," he said.

"It wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country," he added.

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