I have long been an admirer of Mesut Özil, and have deplored on numerous occasions the bias and at times downright awful comments that he has endured from my own country’s media. I would refer in particular to a comment made on BT Sport by Martin Keown, a man I have met personally, that the Arsenal midfielder might feign mental illness to get out of playing, a remark that any right-minded person would find appalling, firstly in its slur on Mesut, but also on a wider context. It was however possible to put his comment somewhat down to ignorance, and in a lot of cases other remarks down to pundits simply wishing to create headlines.
Dating back to my time in Germany after their Euro 2012 exit, however, I have always been aware of a far nastier undercurrent towards the players of immigrant backgrounds, and personally witnessed several comments about players not being ‘proper Germans’, remarks that shocked and disgusted me.
As being in the rather unusual situation these past years of being English but cheering on the German national team, I have met my fair share of moronic comments from my fellow countrymen about Germany and its past. I have always been able to easily counter these statements by pointing out that the current German team stood for everything their country’s past did not: tolerance, multi-culturalism and diversity.
On Sunday night I arrived back from London to read Mesut Ozil’s statement that he had decided not to play for Germany again, citing the lack of support he felt from the DFB, with specific reference to President Grindel, and the racism and prejudice he has experienced within Germany from fans and the media.
The concern naturally remains that following Mesut’s revelations about the DFB hierarchy, everyone who works under their name is now in danger of being so tainted by those too lazy to read exact quotes and statements.
So with the matter attracting so many, often misreported, words and blanket assumptions, I am taking the opportunity to summarise Joachim Löw’s comments over the past few weeks, in particularly on the Erdogan affair.
When the news of the Erdogan photograph broke, 15 May 2018:
“We told them that this has not been the best idea. But I am also sympathetic towards them. Two hearts sometimes beat in players with an immigrant background. … It’s not that easy, and both have said they did not want to make a political statement. Both have done a lot for integration in Germany. It will be a lesson for them.” and he added that they will be spoken to during the training camp.
After Ozil and Gündogan had met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 19 May 2018:
“The two players contacted us and the DFB and wanted to clear this issue up,”
From then on, Jogi refused to speak further on the issue telling journalists that as far as he was concerned the matter was closed.
Since the World Cup exit, it has been wrongly inferred by many that Joachim Löw has somehow specifically blamed Ozil for the loss and has not accepted his part in the early exit for the tournament. This is total nonsense. Immediately after the South Korea defeat, at the post match press conference, Jogi was directly asked if the Erdogan affair had impacted on Mesut Ozil’s performance, to which he responded that many of the players had not performed as expected, and could not have been clearer in his honest statement “I bear the responsibility for that. I stand up to that.”
As far as Özil’s recent statement is concerned, Jogi is mentioned twice. Firstly where it is stated that Jogi asked Mesut to cut short his holiday to return to Berlin and secondly, and most importantly, where Mesut clarifies that both Joachim Löw and Oliver Bierhoff “stood up” for and “backed” him in wishing him to remain in the national team (in stark contrast to Grindel).
The situation as it now stands is that there has been no comment from Jogi, and, being an employee of the DFB, I feel it unreasonable for it to be suggested that there is anything more behind this than him being unable to comment without prior official approval (the news that he had not been contacted before the statement appeared on social media came from his agent). There is to be a press conference on 29 August, originally primarily to announce the team for the September internationals, though I doubt that will now be the main issue those present will be questioned over.
As far as his own sentiments are concerned, Jogi has on numerous occasions expressed his condemnation for those who spread intolerance and hatred, lending his personal support for a campaign against right-wing extremism.
There is sure to be plenty of discussion over the coming months, but I, for one, am happy to fully commit my support to Mesut Ozil, one of the players who has so delighted me, both for club and country, over the past few years, while having no problems continuing to justify my admiration for Joachim Löw both on and off the football pitch.