Football: Ozil's resignation shocks Germany coach Low, Erdogan praises player for decision

Mesut Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen but has strong Turkish roots.
Mesut Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen but has strong Turkish roots.PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Mesut Ozil's shock retirement from international football caught Germany head coach Joachim Low by surprise, it emerged on Tuesday (July 24).

Low was on holiday in Sardinia when news of the player's move broke on Sunday and he only found out when the Arsenal midfielder posted statements on Twitter and Instagram.

"Neither the national coach nor I were informed in advance," Low's agent Harun Arslan confirmed to German daily Bild.

Meanwhile, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had spoken to the Turkish-heritage star after his decision to quit the German team on the grounds of racism, offering his praise for the player's move.

"Last night I spoke to Mesut. His attitude in the statement is completely patriotic," he said, quoted by state TRT Haber broadcaster. "It is not possible to accept this kind of racist attitude towards a young man who poured so much sweat for the German national team's success. This cannot be tolerated."

The 29-year-old dropped a bombshell by announcing his retirement from Germany duty and accused the president of the German FA, Reinhard Grindel, of racism.

"In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," he wrote in his lengthy farewell statement.

 
 
 

Ozil, a 2014 World Cup winner, was born in Gelsenkirchen but has strong Turkish roots.

The German Football Association (DFB) on Monday refuted Ozil's allegations of racism, but the fiasco has damaged the governing body's reputation in football-mad Germany.

A survey of 5,000 Germans by t-online.de showed 49.7 per cent think Grindel should resign over the saga.

Ozil says he is quitting over the furore caused by his meeting with Mr Erdogan on the eve of the World Cup, as Grindel failed to back him amid criticism.

When Germany crashed out of the World Cup in Russia in the group stage, he was made a scapegoat by some pundits among a group of senior players who failed to perform.

He was dropped after the shock 1-0 defeat by Mexico, sitting out the last-gasp 2-1 win over Sweden, but was one of several stars who played poorly in the 2-0 loss to South Korea which confirmed Germany's early World Cup exit.

'Opened the door'

The Arsenal midfielder, who is in Singapore with the English Premier League side for the International Champions Club, is walking away after nine years as one of Low's most trusted players.

The news that he had no warning is surprising as Arslan has a co-operation agreement with Ozil's adviser Erkut Sogut, who only warned the DFB that a statement would be issued on Sunday.

After 23 goals and 40 assists in 92 appearances for Germany, the loss of Ozil is a blow to Low, who deployed the Arsenal midfielder as his main playmaker.

Germany's first game after the World Cup debacle is against newly crowned world champions France in the new Nations League tournament on Sept 6 in Munich.

With Ozil gone, Low will have to find his replacement with Paris Saint-Germain's Julian Draxler or Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus as the leading candidates.

Leon Goretzka, 23, Lars Stindl, 29, and Thomas Muller, 28, have also played well for Germany in the attacking midfield role.

"Mesut Abi ('brother' in Turkish), your technique on the ball has opened the door to the national team for players like me," wrote Draxler on his Instagram account along with a picture of him and Ozil.

"Thank you for everything you've done for German football. You can be proud of your many achievements."

However, others see Ozil's retirement as no great loss for Germany.

"He has not put in performances that can help the national team over the last 18 months to two years, nor was he convincing at the World Cup in his two outings," ex-Germany captain Lothar Matthaus told Sky Sports.

"Now there is the chance for a younger, maybe even a better player" to come into the Germany side, he added.