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“When you and your bro got the back row of the bus to yourselves,” twitted Mesut Özil (left) to a photo showing him and fellow German national player Antonio Rüdiger during the World Cup 2018 in Russia. The Arsenal midfielder says he has been subject to racism, echoing the views of some other European players of foreign descent / Photo: Mesut Özil/Twitter

Mesut Ozil receives widespread support as German federation denies racism

Mesut Ozil’s decision to immediately retire from the German national team has caused shockwaves not only in the German media but across European football after the Arsenal star accused the German Football Association (DFB) of racism and treating him as “a German when we win, and an immigrant when we lose”.

Ozil, who is considered one of the greatest midfielder’s of his generation, made the announcement on Sunday in a lengthy statement posted on Twitter.

The 29-year-old Muslim footballer said he felt singled out for the failure of the German team to advance beyond the group stage at the 2018 World Cup, because of his Turkish heritage and his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.

His comments about being seen as German when the team wins and an immigrant when it loses that circulated is receiving support from  several prominent European players of foreign descent who cited the same grievance.

Mesut Özil hands a shirt over to Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting on May 13 / Photo: Screenshot/Presidential Press Service Turkey)

 

Romelu Lukaku, Belgium’s leading scorer during the World Cup, wrote in a Player’s Tribune article last month: “When things were going well, I was reading newspapers articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker. When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent”.

France and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said in 2011: “If I score, I’m French … if I don’t, I’m an Arab”.

Thousands took to Twitter to support Ozil and lay scorn at the abuse Muslim and African players are subjected to in Europe, with the hashtag #IStandWithOzil becoming a trending topic worldwide.

Kick It Out, an organisation focused on battling racism and discrimination in football, said in a statement “immigration has transformed modern life and modern football for the better”, adding that some of Ozil’s comments ring true.

“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,” the statement read.

Adira Kallo with agency reports

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