Berlin (AFP) – Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has revealed in his autobiography that he prays in Turkish on the pitch during the German national anthem before international matches.
“Just before kick-off, I pray. It’s become a tradition of mine. It’s always the same text. I pray in Turkish,” he writes in his autobiography ‘Die Magie des Spiels’ (The Magic of the Game), released on March 16 in German.
“I learnt these prayers as a child from my parents,” he added.
“I say them after getting up, after eating and during the national anthem.”
The 28-year-old Gunners star, a devout Muslim, was born in Gelsenkirchen and his parents are Turkish immigrants.
He has been criticised for not singing while the German anthem is played, but reveals that during that time he prays for guidance in the match.
“Even as a small boy, I prayed on the football pitch before playing and I have kept doing it, because it gives me a lot of strength and confidence,” he said.
The 2014 World Cup winner made his debut for Germany in 2009 and has since made 83 appearances, scoring 21 goals.
He started his professional career with Gelsenkirchen-based Schalke before moving to Werder Bremen, where he broke into the Germany team, before high-profile transfers to Real Madrid, in 2010, then Arsenal in 2013.
The Gunners’ record signing cost £42.5million ($52.26m), but has been criticised for a lack of recent form and missed Saturday’s Premier League match at Liverpool with flu.
He played for Germany’s junior teams and was part of the squad which won the 2009 European Under-21 championships, alongside current stars Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng.
But in his book, Ozil reveals how he struggled with the decision whether to play for Germany or Turkey — especially as his family was split.
His father and brother wanted him to play for ‘die Mannschaft’, while his mother and sister thought he should play for Turkey.
“This was not a decision I made within a few minutes. This was a decision which would have a significant affect on my whole career,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I talked to my family on this difficult topic and listened to different opinions.
“You can’t make a decision like that alone, regardless of whether you are 16, 17 or 18.
“I agreed with my father from the outset, but I couldn’t admit it to myself at the start.