‘Such racist treatment for his religious beliefs is unacceptable’ - Erdogan wades in on Ozil affair
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hit out at the “unacceptable treatment” of Mesut Ozil, which he believes stems from prejudice towards the former Germany midfielder’s religious beliefs.
Ozil walked out on his international career after what he saw as “racism and disrespect” for his Turkish roots and claiming he had been made a scapegoat for the team’s World Cup failures after a meeting with Erdogan.
"Such racist treatment towards a young man who has given his all to the German national team for his religious beliefs is unacceptable," Erdogan told reporters in parliament on Tuesday.
He said he spoke to Ozil on Monday night and described his approach as "beyond any form of admiration," Reuters reported. He added that Ozil's critics "could not stomach" the photograph of the football star and Erdogan that prompted criticism ahead of the World Cup.
The pair were photographed together in May, after which Ozil was called back from his holiday to explain his actions to German football association (DFB) bosses, which the player labeled a "patronizing" experience.
The DFB released a statement on Monday, admitting it had not done enough to protect the 29-year-old, and thanking him for his part in the country's 2014 World Cup success in Brazil, although it rejected claims of racism.
“Mesut Özil played a key role in Germany lifting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and so the DFB is and always will be incredibly grateful for his outstanding performances in Germany colours,” the statement read.
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“We self-critically acknowledge that the DFB played a part in that when dealing with this issue. We also regret that Mesut Ozil – unlike Jerome Boateng – feels as if he wasn’t given enough protection when made the target of racist slogans."