“To Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” quoted former Die Mannschaft midfielder Mesut Ozil’s detailed retirement letter that emphasized on racism and disrespect within German Football.
Ozil, who plays for the Gunners in England announced his retirement from the German national team after being fiercely criticised and racially abused as the 2014 World Champions crashed out in the group stages of the tournament this year.
A couple of weeks before the World Cup, The 29-year old who is of German and Turkish heritage posed for a picture with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He was accompanied by Manchester City’s İlkay Gündoğan and Everton’s Cenk Tosun. Gündoğan, like Ozil, is German of Turkish descent. But Tosun, born in Germany, plays as a striker for the Turkish national team.
The German Football Association (DFB) didn’t take it well.
“The treatment I have received from the DFB [German Football Association] and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt,” said Ozil in his statement.
Germans further frustrated after the early World Cup exit, made Ozil the scapegoat. Hate mail, threatening phone calls, and social media abuse forced Mesut Ozil into early retirement.
“People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual-heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” added Mesut Ozil to his retirement letter.
Earlier this week, fans rallied around Berlin, many carrying German and Turkish flags with “Ozil” written at the back of their shirts. Ozil scored for Arsenal in their 5-1 win over PSG in the pre-season friendly last week.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Durmaz, who is Assyrian Swedish was also a victim of racial abuse after the team’s loss to Germany in the group stages of the World Cup. Durmaz, like Ozil, received racial insults and death threats but his teammates rallied behind him to underline that everyone was backing him.
“When someone threatens me, when they call me darkie, bloody Arab, terrorist, Taliban … then that limit has been passed. And what is even worse, when they go after my family and my children and threaten them … who the hell does that kind of thing?”
“I am Swedish and I am proud to represent the Swedish national team – it is the biggest thing you can do as a footballer. I will never let any racists destroy my pride. We all have to make a stand against racism,” said Durmaz.
Racism is not tolerated in football but discriminatory incidents are still reported on and off. FIFA’s anti-racism task force has not completely fulfilled its mission. There’s still a long way to go.
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