Locals stand behind Mesut Özil in his native Gelsenkirchen

Baran, 8 years old, was biking around downtown Gelsenkirchen with a couple of his friends. He hadn’t heard yet that Mesut Özil had retired from the German national team.

“What?!” Baran’s eyes were wide when he received the news. “But what country is he playing for instead then?”

Since he debuted for Germany in 2009, Özil has earned 92 caps and scored 23 goals. In 2014, he won the World Cup in Brazil.

Read more: The Özil affair: A chronology in quotations

On July 22, he announced his retirement from international football in a three-part statement on Twitter. Among his reasons was a “feeling of racism and disrespectfulness.”

Understanding in Özil’s hometown

Özil was born and raised in the Bismarck neighborhood of Gelsenkirchen. His grandparents moved to Germany’s western Ruhr valley with their two-year-old son, Özil’s father Mustafa. Young Mesut started his football career at Bornstrasse number 30 — the pitch is only a two-minute walk away from the unassuming yellow terrace house.

Source: DW

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