German-Turkish football star Mesut Özil spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone after he quit Germany’s national team, the Turkish leader told reporters in parliament on Tuesday.
Özil’s decision to leave Germany’s national football team sparked a debate in Germany about racism in the German football association (DFB) and integration in German society.
Resignation statement was ‘patriotic:’
Criticism over Erdogan meet-and-greet: The Turkish leader said that Özil’s critics “could not stomach” a photograph that the two took together in May. Özil, who plays for Arsenal, and fellow Germany player Ilkay Gündogan met with Erdogan in a hotel in London while the Turkish president was visiting the UK ahead of elections in Turkey. German politicians and rights groups have accused Erdogan of trying to undermine Turkish democracy and ignoring the human rights of his opponents.
Özil and Gündogan faced criticism in Germany over the meeting, particularly from DFB president Reinhard Grindel and DFB team manager Oliver Bierhoff. Grindel, who is a former conservative politician, blamed Germany’s poor performance at the 2018 World Cup on Özil’s meeting with Erdogan.