BERLIN • The German Football Association (DFB) yesterday rejected claims of racism against its president Reinhard Grindel made by Mesut Ozil, who announced he has retired from international football.
"We reject the notion that the DFB is associated with racism," read a statement.
"The DFB stands for diversity, from the representatives at the top to the boundless, day-to-day dedication of people at the base. The DFB has been very involved in integration work for many years."
On Sunday, Ozil announced his retirement from international duty in a statement, which accused Grindel of racism, when he broke his silence over his controversial meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.
"In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," wrote Ozil, who has Turkish ancestry but grew up in Germany.
He blamed Grindel and the DFB for failing to defend him against his critics, lashing out at "mistreatment" in particular from Grindel.
CHASTISED AS A CITIZEN
In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.
MESUT OZIL, German footballer, on his unfair treatment by German Football Association president Reinhard Grindel.
The DFB added that it regretted Ozil's decision to quit international football, but firmly rejected his accusations against Grindel.
"The DFB is very grateful to Mesut Ozil for his outstanding performance in the jersey of the German national teams," continued the statement. "It is regrettable that Mesut Ozil felt that he had not been sufficiently protected as a target of racist slogans. But it was important that Mesut Ozil, like Ilkay Gundogan before him, gives answers to the photo (with Erdogan).
"In the DFB, we win and lose together, as a team. The DFB would have been happy if Mesut Ozil had wanted to remain part of the team on this shared basis. He decided otherwise."
Ozil, who is with Arsenal in Singapore for the International Champions Cup, faced heavy criticism for his performances at the World Cup and his meeting with Erdogan.
The midfielder defended his right to meet Erdogan in his lengthy statement on social media.
"My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies. The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt," Ozil wrote on Twitter.
"It is with a heavy heart and, after much consideration, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect."
His decision to quit was criticised by Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who told Bild: "Ozil has been playing s*** for years. He won his last tackle before the 2014 World Cup. All he is doing on the field is playing cross passes. Now he hides himself and his crap performance behind this photo."
Ozil did not respond to Hoeness' comments but said he had received abuse online, and claimed he was racially abused by a supporter after the World Cup match against Sweden who called him a "Turkish pig".
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul hailed his decision as "a goal against the virus of fascism".
But the news was met with a mix of acceptance and outrage and unleashed a racism storm in Berlin yesterday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel "respects" Ozil's decision, her spokesman said yesterday. "The chancellor values Mesut Ozil highly. He is a footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team," said Ulrike Demmer.
Germany's best-selling newspaper Bild led the charge of criticism against Ozil, calling his statement a "whiny resignation" and slamming him for heaping "criticism on everyone but himself".
For Tagesspiegel, the entire affair was a "watershed for sports, politics and society" because the debacle had far-reaching consequences.
"Ultimately, Ozil did not fall because of Grindel but because of a heated, populist mood in Germany," it said. "The danger exists because many who also have family roots in other countries or culture, can understand Ozil's mood.
"And this needs to be countered quickly and decisively. Because more is at stake than just the future of the German national football team."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS