ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said he had spoken to Turkish-origin football star Mesut Ozil after his decision to quit the German team on the grounds of racism, offering his praise for the Arsenal player’s move.
“Last night I spoke to Mesut. His attitude in the statement is completely patriotic,” Erdogan said, quoted by state TRT Haber broadcaster.
“It is not possible to accept this kind of racist attitude towards a young man who poured so much sweat for the German national team’s success. This cannot be tolerated.”
Ozil’s decision to quit playing for Germany and his strongly-worded four-page statement caused uproar in Germany even as it was applauded by Turkish ministers.
He had faced heavy criticism during the World Cup, especially over a controversial photograph with Erdogan in May ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in Turkey.
Ozil, a key member of the squad which won the 2014 World Cup, criticised the German Football Association (DFB) bosses, sponsors and the media.
He lamented a lack of support from DFB president Reinhard Grindel.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil, 29, wrote.
But the association said in a statement on Monday that it rejected “the notion that the DFB is associated with racism”.
In his statement, Ozil addressed critics of the photo and said that he was not making a political statement when he appeared with the Turkish leader before the World Cup finals.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” said Ozil.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on Monday congratulated Ozil, saying he had “scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism.”