Berlin (AFP) – Once hailed as a prize-winning example of integration in Germany, Mesut Ozil has quit international duty amid bitter accusations of racism, levelled at German Football Association (DFB) chief Reinhard Grindel.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote in a lengthy farewell statement on Sunday.
At just 29, Ozil walks away from Germany duty in the wake of the fiasco caused by his meeting, on the eve of the World Cup, with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“It wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country,” Ozil wrote to finally break his silence over the event in London in May.
He quits Germany after scoring 23 goals in 92 international appearances, having been a key component of the 2014 World Cup-winning side.
His ability to split defences with a single pass singled him out as one of the most technically gifted players of his generation.
Born in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish parents, Ozil’s talents were discovered by local club Schalke, whom he left for Bundesliga rivals Werder Bremen in 2008.
His international breakthrough was at the 2010 World Cup as part of a bold, young German team which played eye-catching football in heavy knock-out-stage wins over England and Argentina.
– Booed in Berlin –
Ozil’s superb cross for Thomas Mueller to score Germany’s fourth goal in the 4-1 thrashing of England was the highlight of an outstanding display in Bloemfontein in the last 16.
After the finals in South Africa, Ozil moved to Real Madrid for 18 million euros ($21m).
However, the shy midfielder first found himself in the grey area between sport and politics soon after.
He was booed while playing for Germany at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in October 2010 in a European Championship qualifier against Turkey.
Berlin has a large Turkish community and many in the 74,244-strong crowd were supporting the away team.
There were loud whistles whenever Ozil got the ball — just because he had opted to play for Germany.
Like him, three members of the Turkish team that night — Nuri Sahin, plus brothers Hamit and Halil Altintop, were born in Germany’s industrial Ruhr region.
Unlike him, however, they chose to represent Turkey.
Ozil, just 21 at the time, scored the second goal in an outstanding display in a 3-0 win and subdued his celebrations out of respect.