MUNICH (Reuters) – Germany coach Joachim Loew said he was snubbed by Mesut Ozil after the midfielder abruptly retired from international duty following the furore over a photo with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan prior to the World Cup in June.
The 2014 world champions were left humiliated after they were condemned to their earliest World Cup exit in 80 years. They crashed out following the group stage having lost two of their three matches.
Ozil announced his international retirement shortly after returning from the tournament in Russia after being widely criticised for posing alongside Erdogan in a photograph which also featured Germany team mate Ilkay Gundogan in May.
Ozil, a member of the triumphant 2014 team, said he had faced “racism and disrespect” because of his Turkish roots.
Loew said on Wednesday he had failed in his attempts to contact the Arsenal midfielder and that he had been notified of Ozil’s international retirement by the player’s advisor.
“The player has not called me. In the past that was the case when players retired (from the national team),” Loew said.
Loew said after the advisor’s call, he had called and messaged the player, without reply.
“Mesut decided on a different path. I repeatedly tried reaching him via message or phone but that was not possible. I have to accept that.”
But he rejected the player’s racism claims.
“My only intention was to prepare best for the World Cup. This issue also cost us energy because it was always there. It is of course no excuse for our performance. That was not the reason.
“His claims of racism are exaggerated. Nowhere within my team during my time here, there has been not even as hint of racism,” Loew said.
“I underestimated the case.”
The Germans play world champions France for the new Nations League competition on Sept. 6 before taking on Peru in a friendly international.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)