Arsenal football player Mesut Ozil has decided he will no longer be playing with the German national team.
In a lengthy statement on Twitter, Ozil said he would not stand the criticism and “racist” commentary he received from German media and the German Football Association (DFB) because of the picture he took with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May at a London event.
“I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”
The midfielder faced a barrage of criticism in Germany for having his photograph taken with the Turkish president.
Despite the picture being taken in the run up to a presidential election in Turkey, Ozil emphasised that his meeting with Erdogan “wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
Ozil said he had met Erdogan once before when he joined Angela Merkel to watch Germany versus Turkey football match in 2010.
The Arsenal midfielder said he felt he’d been used as a scapegoat for Germany’s early defeat at the World Cup and wonders whether it has anything to do with his heritage or the fact that he’s Muslim.
“Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political propaganda. Why else did they use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia?”
The star football player said he would not stand DFB’s president Reinhard Grindel blame for Germany's poor performance in Russia. For Grindel, “ I'm German when we win but I’m an immigrant when we lose.”
He added that he did not feel accepted in Germany despite paying taxes there and being part of the team that won the World Cup in 2014.
Ozil said that he and his family have received hate mail, threatening phone calls, and comments on social media.
Euronews reached out to the DFB for comment on Ozil's decision to no longer play with the Mannschaft.
Ozil's news was met with great sadness by his fans, and also the Jordanian FA president,who thanked him for his work with the German national team over the years.
Users also said that they're seeing a common thread among European footballers, of various backgrounds, who have to toe the line.
Others, however, found that Ozil was getting political and even "playing the race card".
[This story was corrected on July 23 to show that the photo was taken before the Turkish presidential election.]