The 29-year-old German national team player’s decision to retire has triggered mixed reaction in both countries, and all the sides are sticking to their own arguments, which at times appear increasingly polarized.
For instance, according to a spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Merkel appreciates the midfielder a great deal. "The chancellor values Mesut Ozil highly. He is a footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team," said Ulrike Demmer, adding that he has "now made a decision that must be respected."
Meanwhile, some rushed to question the player’s contribution to the national team and competence at large. Bayern Munich president and now retired national squad forward Uli Hoeness has acrimoniously lauded Ozil’s move, saying he has been “s*** for years.”
“I am glad that this scare is now over. He had been playing s*** for years,” he told German magazine Sport Bild.
“He last won a tackle before the 2014 World Cup. And now he and his s***** performance hide beyond this picture,” Hoeness noted adding that “from a sporting point of view” Ozil doesn’t belong on the national team.
'Took Him a Long Time'
Germany’s right-wingers naturally chimed in the discussion, with Wiebke Muhsal, deputy chairwoman for the AfD in the state of Thuringia, tweeting on Sunday: "That took him a long time." She expressed indignation about Ozil’s recent claims of “disrespect,” firing back with accusations of the footballer failing to showcase commitment to Germany and respect for the country’s national symbols.
Dafür hat er ja lange gebraucht. Und ausgerechnet #Özil beschwert sich über Respektlosigkeit!? Habe bei ihm bislang weder ein Bekenntnis zu #Deutschland, noch Respekt vor Identifikationssymbolen wie der deutschen #Nationalhymne erkennen können. #DFB https://t.co/GS2faRdpCx— Wiebke Muhsal (@WMuhsal) 22 июля 2018 г.
Some German lawmakers, however, have taken Ozil’s side, saying the latter’s claims and subsequent decision is virtually a warning.
"It is a warning sign when a big German footballer like @MesutOzil1088 no longer feels wanted in his country because of #racism and does not feel represented by #DFB," German Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted.
Turkey Heaping Praise
In the meantime, Turkey has praised the international midfielder’s decision emphasizing what made the footballer retire, namely “racism and disrespect” over his Turkish roots following his meeting and appearing in front of cameras with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London in May. In his Sunday announcement on social media, the 29 year-old Arsenal man noted he had been receiving hate mail, nasty phone calls and online threats over the picture with the Turkish president.
Responding to Ozil’s post, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul took to Twitter to congratulate Ozil, noting the player "has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism."
Turkish Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu also tweeted the contentious Ozil-Erdogan photo, writing: "We sincerely support the honorable stance that our brother Mesut Özil has taken."
Mesut Özil kardeşimizin sergilediği onurlu duruşu yürekten destekliyoruz.🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/EnxMgKmm2k— Dr. Mehmet Kasapoglu (@kasapoglu) 22 июля 2018 г.
Before the player announced his intention, Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin noted the footballer's defense of the meeting was "a pity for those who claim to be tolerant and multiculturalist!"
'Racism & Disrespect'
On Sunday, Ozil, who became a World Cup 2014 winner as part of the German national team, took to Twitter to make public his intention to leave the German national team, saying he is doing it “with a heavy heart.” He said that when playing for Germany at international tournaments he has “this feeling of racism and disrespect.” “Racism should never, ever be accepted,” he stated emotionally. He went on to say that he has “two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” as he grew up in Germany, but his family was originally from Turkey.
Ozil blasted the German Football Federation (DFB), its president Richard Grindel, football fans and the German media for what he branded double standards in their dealing with people of Turkish descent.
After the picture of Ozil and Erdogan started swirling online, Grindel openly accused players with Turkish roots of consenting to be used by Erdogan to help him achieve his political goals. In response, Ozil stated then that the picture was not meant to deliver any political message, but solely demonstrate respect for his origin.