Germany’s football association (DFB) has “emphatically” rejected allegations of racism following Mesut Ozil’s decision to quit the national team.
Ozil announced his withdrawal from international football on Sunday at the age of 29, citing racism. He lashed out at the president of the DFB for the reaction to him and Ilkay Gundogan posing for a photo with Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Turkish President’s visit to London in May.
The DFB said it “regrets the departure of Mesut Ozil from the national team.”
A statement added: “We emphatically reject the DFB being linked to racism.”
Ozil, who crashed out with Germany in the group stages of the World Cup, posted a lengthy statement on social media insisting that he had done nothing wrong in meeting Erdogan and said he will not represent Germany.
“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,” he wrote. “I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.”
A Kick It Out statement read: “Following Germany’s exit from the World Cup, the racist treatment Mesut Ozil has faced by elements of their media, supporters and wider society is extremely disappointing — but is also reflective of the experience of a number of footballers across Europe from mixed heritage backgrounds.
“Immigration has transformed modern life and modern football for the better — the success of Premier League is due to the contribution of footballers from around the world, while the World Cup has been enriched by players of dual heritage such as Ozil.
“However, Ozil is right to suggest that for elements of society, ‘when we win I am German, but I am an immigrant when we lose.’ Unfortunately, black players in England, France and beyond have been treated in a similar fashion for a long time.
“We understand that football is a results business and inevitably there will be criticism of players when a leading nation such as Germany is knocked out of a tournament at an early stage.
“But the singling out of Ozil by parts of the German media, discriminatory comments made by supporters, the lack of support from some sponsors and the alleged treatment by DFB President Richard Grindel, has gone far beyond any reasonable analysis of his performances.
“Footballers must always be wary of their status as role models being exploited for political propaganda, but no player should ever have their loyalty to their country questioned because of a dual heritage. The mere fact that Ozil decided to represent Germany should be enough to demonstrate his commitment, but clearly in some circles that is not enough.
“Mesut Ozil has been treated disgracefully and we have contacted Arsenal to offer our support to him at this time. Those who have driven him to consider international retirement should be ashamed of themselves and his case should encourage all of football to reflect on how the game treats footballers from mixed heritage backgrounds.”
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness criticised Ozil for his decision and said: “I’m glad this nightmare is over. He’s been playing crap for years.”