BERLIN (Agencies): Footballer Mesut Ozil’s decision to quit Germany’s national team has sparked a divisive debate in the country on racism and discrimination.
“It is an alarm signal when a great German footballer like @MesutOzil1088 feels that he is no longer wanted in his country because of #racism and not represented by the #DFB [German Football Association],” Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley said on Twitter.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed respect for the 29-year-old star’s decision and thanked him for his contribution to the national team.
“The Chancellor highly appreciates Mesut Ozil,” deputy government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer told a news conference in Berlin. “Mesut Ozil is a great player, who has contributed a great deal to the national team. He has taken a decision and this should be respected,” she added.
Germany’s star player, who has Turkish origins, announced on Sunday that he has decided to quit the national team, due to a great disappointment with the DFB administration and a growing racist propaganda against him in recent months, by certain politicians and German media.
Merkel’s coalition partner Social Democratic Party (SPD) criticized DFB head Reinhard Grindel and demanded his resignation.
“#Ozil’s decision to quit national team is a shame for our country, it is disgraceful for the @DFB,” Frank Schwabe, SPD lawmaker and party spokesman on human rights, said on Twitter. He called on Grindel and the national team’s general manager Oliver Bierhoff to resign.
Since May, Ozil has been criticized by German politicians and media outlets, for meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London ahead of elections in Turkey. In a series of tweets on Sunday, Ozil defended his meeting, and stressed that a picture with the Turkish president was not about politics or elections.