Ankara, Turkey, July 27
The quote “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose” in Mesut Özil‘s indirect farewell letter to the German Football Federation (DFB) last Sunday is, on one hand, a shocking revelation of how the DFB, at least at its top, has turned into an unfair, unjust and above all else plain anti-Turkey organization.
On the other hand, it is an equally saddening reflection of how some vociferous far-right segments of the German society try to use Turkey as a means of reaching their heinous goals of turning back the German democratic clock and create an anti-liberal, authoritarian system.
But let us first look at Özil impressive rise to football glory. A footballer of Turkish origin born and raised in Germany, Özil is a role model for his generation, both on and off the pitch.
Özil is a real world-class footballer. He played 92 matches for the German national team, scoring 23 goals and making 40. He lifted the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and five years before that big moment, he won the U-21 European Championships in the German colors.
Let us now take a look at his club performance record. Özil has played in the world’s top three football leagues, Bundesliga, La Liga and of course the English Premier League. Currently, at Arsenal, he has scored 27 goals and provided 50 assists in 142 appearances. At 29 years of age, Özil has indeed had a stellar career by any standards; one which is set to continue for many years to come.
Yet, in one of the three countries he played in, Özil no longer seems to be welcome as a sportsman. Apparently and according to the DFB, many in the German media, and the country’s far-right circles, he alone is to blame for a dismal performance by the German national team during this summer’s World Cup in Russia, eventually won by France.
Indeed, individual footballers often have to take responsibility for their team’s losses, and in particular, if they make a lot of individual mistakes. Nothing out of the ordinary; think of an unlucky goalkeeper carelessly giving the ball to an opponent five meters away or a frustrated striker missing five crystal-clear chances.
But none of these applies in Özil’s case and how well he played this year in Russia. And most definitely not if measured over the past ten years when he proudly wore the German shirt and turned into a national hero. To the contrary, in Russia, the entire team collapsed and presented anything but good football. Still, it was Mesut Özil’s fault and his alone.