By Tony Attwood
And so Mesut Özil has removed himself from international football. I’m glad he has and can only wish he had done it earlier.
Mesut is one of those players who not only has a choice of which team to play for, but also which country to play for and he chose the country in which he was born and in which he grew up. But this morning I have been reading that some people have somehow got the notion he ought to have played for Turkey.
He could have done, of course, because as far as I can tell if your grandparents have a link with a country you could play for them. There are young players at Arsenal who are chosen for England’s youth teams, but then switch to the country of their parents. It is how the rules work, but Mesut chose to stick to the traditional approach: play for the country you were born in.
In fact from what I have read he is third generation German, but that doesn’t affect matters at all; he was born in the country and as I understand it travels on a German passport and has German citizenship.
But then Mesut went and met the President of Turkey, the country of his family’s heritage, and some Germany supporters didn’t like that. In many ways I don’t, or rather I didn’t, until I had a sudden thought.
I didn’t like the idea of Mesut being pictured with the President of Turkey, because as I read the situation (and of course I am not there, so just basing my views on what I read and hear) the President has been demolishing the democracy and replacing it with an autocracy.
But then I had a thought.
I have, through my mother’s side of my family, a connection with Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. Not enough to gain a residency permit, but still a family connection. However even if I was considered a Guernseyman they wouldn’t have picked me in my youth to play for the island because I have always been useless at football.
So I am already two steps away from reality, but stay with me for a moment. Just assuming I had been a full bloodied Guernseyman and a good footballer and had become a superhero of the island, and been invited to meet the Chief Minister, some of whose policies I don’t like very much.
Would I have gone? Well, it’s all highly fanciful at every level of course, but yes I’m pretty sure I would have gone, not least out of respect to my mother and her family. (And I am not trying to compare the tiny island of Guernsey nor its politics with Turkey – I am just reporting a thought process that ultimately gave me greater clarity on the subject).
This is in fact about the only way I can think of such things. I’ve no idea how Mesut Özil thinks of such matters in detail, but if he went to the meeting with Erdoğan because of his family’s heritage, yes I can understand it.
And what difference would it have made had he not gone? It might have caused distress to members of his family, and that’s generally not a good thing to do. And going or not going hasn’t affected the way Turkey has moved from being a type of democracy into a type of dictatorship.
As Mesut said, “our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies.”
The problem in fact is not with Mesut, but with international football, which is run by a group of people very closely associated with countless economic crimes, answerable only to enfeebled bodies like the FA who are unable to stand up to the Fifa.
What I think is most interesting in Mesut’s statement is that he attempted to explain to DFB President Grindel about his heritage and his reasoning behind agreeing to the photo, but Grindel was apparently more interested in speaking about his own political views and “belittling my opinion” in Mesut’s own words. He points out that they agreed to concentrate on football and thus he did not attend the DfB media day, since journalists would discuss politics and attack him.
He also points out that the President of Germany met him and was genuinely interested in his family and heritage and that Grindel was upset he wasn’t allowed in to have his say. Later Mesut says he will not longer be the scapegoat for Grindel’s incompetence and inability to do his job properly. Oh if only footballers in England would occasionally speak out about the Chairman and board members of the FA. But no, they plod on and although recent appalling racial issues against players have been covered by some papers, most have ignored them. This is the national team; it’s more important than mere matters of racial discrimination. (Mark Sampson’s racism is of course now largely forgotten and brushed aside).
Mesut also says criticising him and abusing him because of his family ancestry is a disgraceful line to cross, and I wholeheartedly agree. As he says in relation to Grindel, “People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual‑heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose.”
And yet international football has always had a racially discriminative background to it as we found when the FA finally sacked Mark Sampson. And it goes all the way back through England’s history. The first black player to play for England Benjamin Odeje was carefully written out of England’s history books. That’s how it goes in football.
As Mesut says, some of the fans and some of the people running football in Germany, “represent a Germany of the past, a Germany that I am not proud of. I am confident that many proud Germans who embrace an open society would agree with me.”
Mark Sampson was sacked as manager of England’s women team for racial discrimination just last year. Let’s not forget we seem to have as far to go as Germany.
- Should Arsenal sell seven players now, or buy? Summer is a-coming in.
- Translating the current Arsenal rumours into English while going wild.
- Arsenal’s tour squad, who’s leaving, who’s loaning, & the oldest ground
- What every football club (and most certainly Arsenal) is aiming for.
- The apparent decline of Tottenham and the question of care for players elsewhere
- Positive injury news for Arsenal ahead Monday’s game with Sheffield United
- Arsenal’s finances stay secure but we can expect more price rises for fans
- How a 14th monk described Arsenal’s failure to buy Moisés Caicedo and Mykhailo Mudryk