The DFB’s criticism of Mesut Özil for meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London has rebounded against the German football association. While taking Özil to task for political naivete, politicians also say that the DFB unfairly singled out the Turkish-German midfielder.
“I think everyone involved in this affair should look inward,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin on Monday. “I see very few people who I would say have behaved well at all.”
After weeks of silence, Özil announced in a series of three extended tweets that he would no longer suit up for the German national team because he didn’t feel welcome. He specifically blamed DFB President Reinhard Grindel, a former conservative politician, for encouraging a xenophobic atmosphere in the team. Grindel and DFB team manager Oliver Bierhoff had linked Özil’s Erdogan meeting with Germany’s disastrous performance at the 2018 World Cup.
A spokesperson for Angela Merkel said only that the chancellor had always appreciated Özil as a player and respected his decision. But members of Merkel’s Cabinet were far more critical of Germany’s football functionaries.
“It’s a warning sign if, because of racism, a great German football player like Mesut Özil no longer feels wanted in his country or represented by the DFB,” said German Justice Minister Katarina Barley via Twitter.
In a statement on its website, the DFB rejected the charge of racism and said it would have been happy if Özil had remained a national team player.
“The DFB stand for diversity,” it wrote.