Mesut Ozil has sensationally quit international football for Germany, announcing his decision to retire after facing “racism and disrespect” and “threatening phone calls”.
In a lengthy statement, the 29-year-old midfielder – who helped the nation to glory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup – did not pull any punches, accusing some German Football Association (DFB) officials and senior political officials of serious mistreatment.
Ozil’s decision comes amid a political debate in Germany about an influx of 1.6 million migrants since mid-2014 that has seen a rise of the far right at the expense of traditional parties.
Ozil, who has Turkish roots, has faced a barrage of criticism since having his photograph taken with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in May, and was booed by fans at this year’s World Cup in Russia.
The defending champions bombed out of the World Cup at the first attempt, failing to qualify from the group stage, and Ozil said DFB president Reinhard Grindel blamed him for Germany’s poor performance.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil said.
This is because despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being ‘different’.
“I received the ‘Bambi Award’ in 2010 as an example of successful integration to German society, I received a ‘Silver Laurel Leaf’ in 2014 from the Federal Republic of Germany, and I was a ‘German Football Ambassador’ in 2015. But clearly, I am not German …
“Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit? My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim?”
Ozil went on to explain his retirement, insisting it had been a tough decision to make.
“The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt,” he said.
“I feel unwanted … people with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has many players from dual-heritage families.
“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.
“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.
“This decision has been extremely difficult to make … but when high-ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough.
“This is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
Ozil added that he had been the subject of hate mail and abusive phone calls.
“I don’t want to even discuss the hate mail, threatening phone calls and comments on social media that my family and I have received,” he said.
“They all represent a Germany of the past, a Germany not open to new cultures, and a Germany that I am not proud of.”