Hector Bellerin has praised Arsenal team-mate Mesut Ozil for speaking out about the issues that prompted his international retirement.The Spanish full-back applauded his team-mate for standing up for himself amid the constant criticism surrounding his national team performances.
Ozil ended his Germany career on Sunday, confirming his decision in a series of social media statements that criticised the media and German FA president Reinhard Grindel. The playmaker, who has been at the centre of a storm surrounding the photo he took with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, claimed he was made a scapegoat for his country’s poor World Cup performance due to his Turkish roots.
The criticism surrounding the 29-year-old has only increased, as Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness added to the heat with his comments on Monday, but Bellerin showed his support.The Spanish full-back posted a message on Twitter saying his team-mate deserved some respect.
“Surreal that someone who has done so much for his country on and off the pitch has been treated with such disrespect,” Bellerin wrote. “Well done Mesut Ozil for standing up to this behaviour!”
Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, who debuted for Germany in the same year as Ozil, shared a photo of the two together, adding: “It was a pleasure Abi”, with ‘Abi’ the Turkish word for brother. Ozil earned 92 caps for Germany and was part of Joachim Low’s side who won the World Cup in 2014.
Just days after Germany returned home from being humiliated at the World Cup, German football association (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel demanded a public statement from Mesut Ozil about the Arsenal star’s pre-tournament meeting with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Sunday, Grindel received exactly what he asked for. But it was definitely not what he wanted or expected from the 93-time Germany international.
In a lengthy three-part statement, released section-by-section during the course of the day, Ozil meticulously detailed his account of his meeting with Erdogan, the media criticism that followed and then launched into a scathing attack on Grindel and his supporters before confirming his international retirement.
The statement was strong, considered and showed exactly why the 29-year-old took such time to react to his treatment following Germany’s World Cup exit. For the first time in 80 years, Germany had failed to get out of their group at the tournament, but instead of placing the blame on head coach Joachim Low or introspectively assessing what the DFB could have done better before and during the competition, Ozil was turned into a scapegoat by not only the media, but by people inside his own football association including general manager Oliver Bierhoff and Grindel.
Ahead of the World Cup, Ozil and team-mate Ilkay Gundogan – both of whom have Turkish roots – were photographed with Erdogan in London, sparking outcry from pundits and media who criticised the star for mixing football and politics. Gundogan admitted that the meeting was not political, with Ozil’s initial statement on Sunday confirming that his intentions were also not motivated by politics, merely respecting the position of president and the country of his ancestors.
“In May, I met President Erdogan in London, during a charitable and educational event. We first met in 2010 after he and Angela Merkel watched the Germany vs Turkey match together in Berlin,” the statement read.
“Since then, out paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe. 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.”
Despite distancing himself from the situation before and during the World Cup, Ozil continued to be criticised and this vitriol only increased after Germany’s shock exit. Fans booed him during a pre-tournament friendly against Austria, while his decision not to sing the national anthem while playing in Russia was also repeatedly highlighted. When he was dropped from the starting XI against Sweden, commentators in Germany pointed out how all 11 players were singing the anthem.