Mesut Ozil has resigned from the German national team following a series of racist attacks against him yet he was born, raised and educated in German by immigrant Turkish parents.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday following Ozil’s exit from the Germany squad, the treatment of Mesut Ozil, a Turkish-German football star playing for the German national team, is “racist” and “unacceptable.”
“Such a racist treatment toward a young man, who has given his all to the German national team, for his religious beliefs is unacceptable,” Erdogan told reporters at Turkish parliament.
Erdogan said he had a phone conversation with the football star on Monday and described his approach as “beyond any form of admiration.”
Ozil’s bombshell announcement sparked a debate across Turkey, with Turkish politicians joining the chorus of accusations against Germany’s “racism.”
“I congratulate Mesut Ozil, who by leaving the national team has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism,” Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul wrote on Twitter on Monday.
Ozil, a third-generation German, has been facing criticism in Germany since May, over a controversial photograph with Erdogan ahead of the World Cup.
He and Ilkay Gundogan, a teammate also of Turkish descent who posed with Erdogan as well, were jeered by German fans in warm-up games before the World Cup in Russia.
In a long statement posted on his social media on Sunday, the footballer announced “with a heavy heart and after much consideration” that he will no longer play for Germany at the international level, because “this feeling of racism and disrespect.”
“Racism should never, ever be accepted,” he added.
“In the eyes of Grindel (president of German Football Federation) and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote in the statement.
The defending champion Germany failed to make it to the knockout stage at the 2018 World Cup, suffering the earliest exit in 80 years.
Ozil, 29, was a key member of Germany’s World Cup championship team in 2014 and has been voted by fans as the team’s player of the year five times since 2011.
He appeared in 92 matches with the German national football team, and was widely seen as one of the best midfielders of his age.
In 2010, he received Germany’s prestigious Bambi Award as an example of successful integration into German society.
Voicing disappointment on his Twitter account on Sunday, the footballer asked: “I was born and educated in Germany, so why don’t people accept that I’m German?”