UK Premier League club Arsenal has been accused of “double standards” and “discriminating” against its attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, over his “public stand against injustice”.
The Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations, and its Chairman Ertugrul Mehmet, representing the UK's Turkish Cypriot population of 300,000, penned an open letter to the club on Wednesday, where it criticised the club for treating Germany’s Muslim World Cup winner Ozil “so differently from other non-British players”.
“It is with great regret that I inform you that a growing portion of our community that are closely linked to your football club are becoming increasingly frustrated at the club's public dissociation from the Uighur conflict, stemming from Mesut Ozil’s public stand against the Chinese government in December 2019, and the ensuing unfavourable treatment of the player,” says the letter.
The Council goes on to say that Arsenal had opted at the time to “distance itself” from Ozil’s stance, publicly stating:
“The content published is Ozil’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”
The letter claims the Gunners had responded differently when team-mate, Spanish professional footballer Hector Bellerin, in the run-up to the general elections in the UK, had gone on Twitter to urge people to vote under the hashtag: F***Boris.
Arsenal FC’s Twitter account had supported Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, captain of both Premier League club Arsenal and the Gabon national team, and their young Nigerians fans in sweeping protests against police brutality, says the letter.
Warning the club that its relationship with its north London Turkish fan base was under threat, the letter stated:
“This action taken by the club has compounded the sense in our community that Arsenal is overtly discriminating against our community.”
© AP Photo / Presidential Press Service/PoolIn this file photo taken on Sunday, May 13, 2018, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, poses for a photo with Arsenal soccer player Mesut Ozil in London.
32-year old Ozil has not played any competitive football since March, and while still receiving his £350,000 per week wage, he has been left out of all 13 past matches.
The footballer who joined Arsenal for a record £42.4 million in 2013, was recently left out of Arsenal's Premier League and UEFA Europa League squads.
In a message to Arsenal fans on Twitter on 21 October Ozil said he was sad that his "loyalty" to the club had "not been reciprocated".
Ozil has reportedly vowed to see out his contract until it expires in June 2021 despite being frozen out by Mikel Arteta, who claimed the “exile” was down to "football reasons".
Some football experts suggest the problem dates back to April, when Arteta and many Arsenal players accepted a 12.5 percent pay cut as a result of the financial fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, Ozil did not vote for the cut and was cited as claiming he believed that "possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch".
Ozil was quoted as telling the Athletic:
"Things have been difficult but I love Arsenal. I'll decide when I go, not other people. I'll give everything I have for this club. Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger. I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again."