(Reuters) – Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has defended German compatriot Mesut Ozil, saying the criticism the Arsenal midfielder received for being photographed with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was due to “absolute misinformation” and “complete nonsense”.
Ozil also came under fire for his performances at the World Cup in Russia, where the defending champions crashed out in the group stage, as the 29-year-old quit international football last month over “racism and disrespect” due to his Turkish roots.
“This is a classic example of absolute misinformation and, of course, complete nonsense,” Klopp told German television channel Sport1.
“In politics, little things have always been blown up and big things pushed away in order to continue.
“Normally, intelligent people tend to hold back because it is not easy to say the right thing. I would count myself too. All those who have no idea are loud in these conversations.”
Ozil and international team mate Ilkay Gundogan, who is also of Turkish descent and posed with Erdogan, were subjected to jeers from German fans in warm-up games before the World Cup.
“I don’t doubt these guys, at least about their loyalty to our homeland. The difference is that they have one more thing (in their heritage)… that’s beautiful,” Klopp, who coached Manchester City’s Gundogan at their former club Borussia Dortmund, added.
“Cultural diversity, we all thought it was cool around the (Germany-hosted) 2006 World Cup… now two guys are seduced by politically intelligent people to have a photo, and then have relatively few opportunities to say what they want 100 percent right.
“That’s why I find this discussion hypocritical. Bad things happened because people were not informed properly. Even the media should not create a buzz around something like this every day. Just cool off and see the people behind it.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O’Brien)