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Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial snap with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Mesut Ozil defends controversial picture with Turkish president that saw him quit German national team feeling ‘disrespected and unprotected’ as he says racism in Germany has ‘shifted to the middle of society’

  • Mesut Ozil defends his controversial picture with Turkish president Erdogan
  • The Arsenal playmaker received a torrent of racial abuse for the snap from 2018
  • As a result the 31-year-old retired from international football after the World Cup
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Mesut Ozil has opened up on his controversial picture with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which led to the Arsenal player feeling ‘disrespected and unprotected’ in Germany.

The 31-year-old insists he has no regrets over posing for the photograph, despite becoming the target of racist abuse in the wake of his country’s shock World Cup exit in 2018.

Ozil came under heavy criticism for his picture with Erdogan, who has been described as a modern-day dictator by his harshest critics and his three-day London visit last year was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.

Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial snap with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial snap with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

In recent days he has sparked international condemnation for launching a military incursion into Syria to fight what he claims are terrorists among the Kurds living there. 

Ozil, who was born in Germany but has Turkish heritage, presented Erdogan with a signed Arsenal shirt during their meeting and insists he will respect anyone in the ‘highest position’ of a country, whether that is Turkey, Germany or another nation. 

‘[Erdogan] is the current president of Turkey and I would show respect to that person, whoever it was,’ Ozil told The Athletic. ‘Although I was born and raised in Germany, Turkey is part of my heritage.

‘If the German president or [Chancellor] Angela Merkel are in London and ask to see me, to speak to me, of course I would do that as well. It’s just about showing respect to the highest position of a country.’

Following the meeting with the Turkish president, which was also attended by Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil insisted he felt ‘unprotected’ by claiming that no-one stood up for him after he received abuse for the snap.

(Left to right) Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil, Erdogan and Cenk Tosun pose for a photo in May 2018

(Left to right) Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil, Erdogan and Cenk Tosun pose for a photo in May 2018

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(Left to right) Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil, Erdogan and Cenk Tosun pose for a photo in May 2018

‘After the photo, I felt disrespected and unprotected. I was receiving racist abuse — even from politicians and public figures — yet nobody from the national team came out at that time and said, “Hey, stop. This is our player, you can’t insult him like that”. Everyone just kept quiet and let it happen.’ 

Ozil also said he received vile abuse for the photo before insisting that his country as a problem with racism. The Gunners playmaker went on to cite the tragic events in Halle, east Germany, which saw a gunman kill two people in a synagogue last week. 

‘There are major problems in Germany — just look at what happened in Halle last week, another anti-semitic attack. Unfortunately, racism is no longer only a right-wing issue in the country. It has shifted into the middle of society.’

Following Germany’s shock exit at the 2018 World Cup, the playmaker penned an explosive letter that said he was used as a ‘scapegoat’ before sensationally claiming, ‘I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose’. 

Ozil claims he was used as a 'scapegoat' following Germany's shock exit at the 2018 World Cup
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Ozil claims he was used as a 'scapegoat' following Germany's shock exit at the 2018 World Cup

Ozil claims he was used as a ‘scapegoat’ following Germany’s shock exit at the 2018 World Cup

Ozil sits dejected on the bench after Germany are knocked out of the World Cup in Russia

Ozil sits dejected on the bench after Germany are knocked out of the World Cup in Russia

Ozil sits dejected on the bench after Germany are knocked out of the World Cup in Russia

In the statement, Ozil claimed he was turned into ‘political propaganda’ and no longer felt pride in wearing the national shirt.

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Following their exit at the group stages in Russia, Ozil reveals he received racist abuse from his fellow countrymen. The former Real Madrid star also reveals how Gundogan was racially abused. 

He added: ‘When we were knocked out and I came off the pitch, German people were telling me, “Go back to your country”, “F*** yourself”, “Turkish pig” and stuff like that.

‘Before the tournament there was a friendly in Leverkusen and when the ball came to Ilkay Gundogan, most of the stadium was booing him. I heard them shouting, “Goat f***er”, “f***ing Turkish boy” and other insults that I can’t repeat.’