Belfast Telegraph

DFB rejects racism allegations as Ozil retires from international football

The Arsenal midfielder accused the German Football Association of treating him with “racism and disrespect”.

The German Football Association has expressed regret over Mesut Ozil’s retirement from international football but denied allegations of racism towards the Arsenal midfielder.

Ozil, 29, won the World Cup with Germany four years ago but was also part of Joachim Low’s squad which failed to progress from the group stages of this summer’s tournament in Russia.

In a lengthy statement posted on Twitter on Sunday evening, Ozil – a third-generation Turkish-German who was born in Gelsenkirchen – accused the German Football Association (DFB) of treating him with “racism and disrespect”.

Ozil claimed DFB chiefs wanted him “out of the team” before the start of the World Cup, due to the emergence of a photograph featuring him and Germany team-mate Ilkay Gundogan with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The picture led to criticism of Ozil in Germany. According to the player, only the intervention of head coach Low and team manager Oliver Bierhoff ensured he would then take part in Russia.

Ozil, who won 92 caps for Germany, also revealed he and his family had received hate mail and threatening phone calls and been subjected to social media abuse.

In an extensive statement of its own on Monday afternoon, issued following a conference call by the DFB board, the governing body paid tribute to the midfielder’s contribution but also moved to reject any suggestions of racism.

The DFB said Ozil – who is currently on a pre-season tour in Singapore with Arsenal – had “helped define a very successful era” and “played a key role” during the 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil, as well as praising his “outstanding performances in Germany colours.”

The governing body, though, stressed its integration work was of “fundamental importance at every level”. It said: “We play and live together with our various roots, religions and cultures.”

However, the DFB felt the photo of Ozil had “raised questions for many people in Germany” and also “self-critically acknowledge” the organisation “played a part in that when dealing with this issue.”

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Mesut Ozil, pictured left, became a world champion in 2014 (Mike Egerton/PA)

While expressing regret Ozil “feels as if he wasn’t given enough protection when made the target of racist slogans”, the DFB said it was “important” for the player to “provide answers for this photo, regardless of the way the World Cup in Russia went.”

The statement added: “At the DFB, we win and lose together, all of us, as a team.”

The DFB stressed it “would have been happy” if Ozil wanted to “continue being part of this team on that common basis, but he has chosen otherwise”.

While not wanting to make public comment on some of Ozil’s statements from his Twitter post, described as “incomprehensible in their tone and message”, the DFB “emphatically” rejected being associated with racism in any part of the organisation.

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Mesut Ozil (right) had been an integral part of the German national team. (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The DFB has been very active with its integration efforts in Germany for many years,” the statement said.

“We stand for diversity – from the representatives at the very top to the countless people working at grassroots level each and every day.

“The DFB regrets Mesut Ozil’s decision to step down from the national team. But it does not affect the association’s determination to continue its successful work on integration.”

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who won the World Cup with West Germany in 1974, accused Ozil of producing “crap” performances for years when representing the national team.

However, Ozil’s club team-mate Hector Bellerin swiftly took to social media to offer his support and praise Ozil for “standing up to this behaviour”.

Meanwhile, a post on the official Arsenal Twitter account reinforced the club’s commitment to diversity.

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