Mesut Özil takes the right step: but international football will always be racist

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.



16 Replies to “Mesut Özil takes the right step: but international football will always be racist”

  1. Great news! I wish all our players step down from international football…. Xhaka, what are you waiting for

  2. I applaud the stance taken by Ozil , and am glad that he will not ever be distracted by international games. I hope he goes on to play ever freely and proudly for the Arsenal.

    Players of his ilk , appear once in every generation . Go Mesut !

    The media with shaft themselves soon enough !

  3. And yet there are probably more nationalities represented in the premier league than any other organisation in the world bar the UN. What school you went to does not matter so football it seems to me is pretty open compared to most things in life. You should be able to enjoy international football as a contest between nations initially designed to create harmony .people seemed to have enjoyed the world cup and it seemed to bring people together more so than those who wish to shout racism at every opportunity

  4. The Angela Merkel / EU mass immigration to Europe experiment is coming to a head.
    There’s a very strong belief across most EU European countries that there have been too many immigrants in a short period of time and that they are not integrating (and therefore negatively effecting the indigenous communities).
    This is shown in various political ways (from Austria closed borders, through trouble in Denmark, France, Sweden and others, onto a Nationalist coalition leading Italy) and Ozil is being caught in the middle.
    He’s a well paid celebrity and there to be shot down (metaphorically speaking) the same way any other well paid celebrity is, in the eyes of the media and politicians.
    I’ve quite a few German friends that don’t think he should be in their national team, (for football reasons which makes me certain that these friends really don’t understand football at all) so that makes him an even easier target.
    Hopefully this will be to the benefit of the club.

  5. Firstly – bravo, Mesut!

    He did the right thing by ending his status of a victim in the international football car-theft-like scheme.

    He also did the right thing by calling things by their name – a blatant case of racism and islamophobia. When he did well, he was as German as a wurst wrapped up in a pair of lederhosen. When he didn’t, he was a Turkish immigrant-Muslim who was stealing the job of a real German.

    Personally, I don’t like Erdogan as he has been doing everything to concentrate power in the person of President (he is also adored among the Bosniak nationalists in Bosnia). He has also done stuff like erasing his political opponents from the football books (such as Hakan Sukur, the greatest Turkish footballer of all times, who’s been erased from the football records due to his connection with Gülen, a person that was apparently behind the attempted military coup two years ago). He also banned word “Arena” from the names of football stadiums etc.

  6. Marca is showing that Hoeness (of Bayern Munich) is now ripping into Mesut. That’s a pity.

    I think someone should munch on Hoeness. As Josif wrote, bravo Mesut!

    In Champion’s Cup action, the other Bayern (Dortmund) has now played two games and has 2 wins for 6 points, and a goal difference of 3 with a goals allowed of 1.

    Should Dortmund win their last game against Benfica to secure 9 points, any of the other 17 teams who have suffered a non-win have no chance of winning the Champions Cup 2018. Do they field a strong team?

    Which means it is likely that at this point, there is no chance for Man$ity or Liverpool to win this cup. Man$ity have Liverpool and Bayern Munich yet to play. Liverpool have Man$sity and ManU yet to play. Suggests to me that the Man$ity-Liverpool game ends 0-0, and possibly a BMunich win (as they beat PSG 3-1 already). Who knows if ManU will have anything to play for,

    We have 5 games coming up on Wednesday:
    _Juventus BMunich
    _BDortmund Benfica
    _Man$ity Liverpool
    _Roma Spuds
    _Milan ManU
    With this tournament almost half finished, it could be that most teams will suddenly be in a position where winning it not possible. And there likely is no incentive to finish in any position other than first. And as with international play, there is always the chance of injuries.

  7. Personally (and it is a personal opinion) I could not care less about international football. I support Arsenal and all who sail in her. I wish more Arsenal players would step away from what is becoming a pretty low standard affair particularly qualifying. Anything that helps the Gunners is pretty good by me

  8. I don’t think it was the right move to meet Erdogan, but people have to remember that these guys are footballers, not politicians or political analysts. Most interviews with players show that they often aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and while many are intelligent, their education is in football, not in international relations.

    Ozil and Gundogan were exploited by Erdogan, but they’ve also been exploited by the chattering class. Though different in many ways, the ignoring of the two players’ dignity and humanity in this whole affair is ridiculous. Germany is not a racist country, but those who have exploited the players because Erdogan conducts political campaigns within the German Turkish community have not done any good for anyone.

    What’s interesting about this is that it all shows the soft power that footballers have these days. I’m not sure what this was like in the past so perhaps this isn’t much of a revelation, but this whole affair has shown me that in the modern era a politician can pose with a footballer who has millions of followers on Instagram and get far more coverage than he would if he’d just given an interview with a major newspaper. Salah meeting with that Chechen leader was another example of this.

    These players are being used as pawns in the geopolitical game. I wonder if this kind of thing features in their club-provided education? One would have to imagine it does to a degree. If anyone has any information on that I’d be very interested.

  9. Terence a very interesting point, and sadly I can’t elucidate much. But I think that by the time Mesut came to Arsenal from Real Madrid he would either have his team of minder around him, or he had decided to be his own man. I don’t know which but I do think many players have a coterie of publicists who insist that their man has to stay in the news to keep up his profile – and thus his income.

    In the end we can often only judge how much these players really had inside their heads after they have retired. My suspicion is that Mesut is a deep thinker, but with all the background noise, it is hard to tell.

  10. Great news for Arsenal fans who want to blame all our woes on Mesut Oezil. You’re not racist ar*eholes like the DFB just…ar*eholes.

  11. In the past I had to stop myself disliking Kevin Keegan for being photographed with Thatcher.

  12. So much going on and Boris still not lying down under a bus or earth mover. Major claiming high moral ground of a second referendum while forgetting the curry he had while in number 10. The Semites claiming that racism is any criticism of uniformed booted Nazis against the women & children of the Gaza concentration camp.

    One magical Lewis Hamilton saying that no one is born with hate while showing how prayer and love overcomes all. He even used a lonely Gooner in the midst of Man U fans as an example of love overcoming hate.

  13. TM 11………Germany IS racist, especially regarding the Turks. I lived there for 2 years and saw constant commentary and criticism that was racist and against Turks in particular. There is still a strong right wing presence there and the older generation is not very tolerant of foreigners working in Germany like me in general and immigrants specifically.
    Mesut was used by Erdogan to lend legitimacy to his authoritarianism, like Putin and Infantini used the WC to legitimize their dictatorships. Corrupt people and autocrats do this with aplomb.

  14. Each person normally weighs his options carefully when undertaking or embarking on something. What a normal person will not do is to take into serious consideration is, on how social media will react to it. Why the fuck should one ?
    If I were to overthink things , I’d probably not be able get anything done at all. We do what we think is right , and balls to another’s opinion or feigned hurt feelings. Especially if we don’t know them , nor ever meant any slight or harm.

    If they feel slighted , then its their problem , not mine. Deal with it !

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