President Erdoğan calls Özil’s stance ‘national and native’
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said German-Turkish footballer Mesut Özil has displayed a “national and native stance” by quitting the German national team over what he called racism in Germany.
Erdoğan spoke to journalists after the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on July 24, hours after he made a phone call with Özil late July 23.
“This statement by Özil and the stance he has taken is completely national and native. It is well beyond all appreciation. I congratulate him, because such a racist approach due to his religion toward a young person who gave everything for the German national team, contributing to its successes, was completely unacceptable,” Erdoğan said.
Özil, a third-generation German, has been in the firing line ever since he had a picture taken with Erdoğan in May, sparking questions about his loyalty to Germany.
The Arsenal midfielder, 29, announced his resignation from the national squad in a heartfelt statement on July 22 citing “racism and disrespect,” including from the president of the German Football Association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel.
He defended his photo with Erdoğan in July 22’s statement, insisting he had no political motive and was merely being respectful towards his heritage and links to Turkey.
Erdoğan said on July 24 that he had also taken photos with other footballers, including İlkay Gündoğan and Cenk Tosun, and some people criticized it saying “they couldn’t digest” it, using a Turkish phrase connoting jealousy or envy.
“Some established politicians see the things as they are, though,” Erdoğan added.
While Özil was blasted by German far-right politicians and tabloids, many politicians in Germany supported his decision.
A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ulrike Demmer, said the German leader “values Mesut Özil highly.”
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She said he had “made a decision that has to be respected,” while insisting that “Germany is an open country in which people with immigrant backgrounds are very welcome.”
“The fact that the Germans were knocked out of the World Cup has little to do Mr. Özil having his picture taken with Erdoğan. I think everyone involved in this case should reflect. I see few people who in my perception have behaved more or less right in this case,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.