Mesut Ozil has retired from international football and hit out at racism in the German FA after being made a ‘scapegoat’ following their group stage World Cup exit.
In a statement the Arsenal playmaker, 29, claims he has been turned into ‘political propaganda’ and no longer feels pride in wearing the national shirt.
Ozil came in for heavy criticism after Germany’s humiliating first-round departure in Russia, their worst World Cup performance in 80 years, which came after he was pictured alongside controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He posted three open letters to social media on Sunday, the final confirming his retirement from international football in which he hit out at the ‘racism and disrespect’ he has been subject to.
Ozil, who is of mixed German and Turkish heritage, said on Sunday night that he and his family had received hate mail, threatening phone calls and social media abuse.
In a statement on Twitter he wrote: ‘The treatment I have received from the DFB (German Football Association) and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt.
‘This is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever be accepted.
‘I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.
‘I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly.
‘Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not fit? My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim?’
Earlier Ozil issued a staunch defence of his meeting with Turkey’s controversial president Erdogan, saying turning down the meeting would have been ‘disrespectful’ to his ancestors.
Ozil, who has always been proud of his Turkish heritage, presented Erdogan with a signed Arsenal shirt during a London meeting back in May. He was accompanied by Ilkay Gundogan, who also has Turkish roots, and Everton striker Cenk Tosun.
With overriding power in Turkey, President Erdogan has been described as a modern-day dictator by his harshest critics and his three-day London visit was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.
Unsurprisingly, Ozil’s meeting caused controversy in his native Germany with their team manager Oliver Bierhoff suggesting he should have been dropped from the World Cup squad as a result.
Even if that had transpired, Ozil says he would not change his course of action and insists meeting Erdogan was more about paying respect to his homeland rather than the man himself.
He wrote: ‘Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey. I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.
‘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.
‘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.
‘For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country. My job is a football player and not a politician, and out meeting was not an endorsement of any policies.
‘Although the German media have portrayed something different, the truth is that not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors, who I know would be proud of where I am today.’
The 29-year-old released a further statement, taking aim at the ‘right-wing media’ who, he claims, had used his meetings with the Turkish president to strengthen their political message and believes he had been made ‘a target’ due to his foreign ancestry.
He also revealed that a scheduled trip to his former school along with two of his charitable partners was cancelled on short notice after they told him they no longer wanted to work alongside him.
Ozil wrote: ‘Certain Germany newspaper are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause. Why else did the use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia?
‘They didn’t criticise my performance, they didn’t criticise the team’s performances, they just criticied my Turkish ancestry and respect for my upbringing.’
Ozil, who was heavily criticised as Germany failed to make it out of their World Cup group, was back with his club on Sunday as he made the journey to Singapore, where they will play several pre-season fixtures.
Germany’s early exit from the tournament means Ozil will be back to full fitness for the start of their Premier League season on August 13 with Unai Emery set to take charge of his first competitive game against Manchester City.