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Özil wants to sit out Turkey football clash

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Özil wants to sit out Turkey football clash
Löw (left) and Özil. Photo:DPA
14:45 CEST+02:00
One of Germany's high-profile ethnic Turkish footballers, Mesut Özil, has asked to sit out Friday's match against Turkey to avoid angry Turkish fans – but has been told he has to play.

“I love Turkey as much as I do Germany,” he told Turkish daily newspaper Radikal.

“Even though we have already qualified, for me this will be the most difficult match of the competition.”

But the German Football Association (DFB) rejected his request to sit out the match, saying it could encourage bad habits, Radikal reported.

German-born Özil is often held up as a brilliant example of integration, yet when he first played for Germany against Turkey last year in Berlin he was booed by Turkish supporters, one of whom held up a placard reading, “We could've been cheering for you, Özil!”

The 23-year-old midfielder told Radikal on Wednesday that the booing last year had scuppered him, and that he had asked the DFB to sit out Friday's match at Istanbul's Türk Telekom Arena.

Although Germany has already qualified for the Euro 2012 finals, Turkey needs to do well in order to go through and Özil could face a sea of angry Turkish fans if things do not go their way.

Most of the player's extended family still live in Turkey, so he explained to Radikal that he was aware of the prejudices many Turks still hold against him and that he would expect to be jeered at again.

His father Mustafa also spoke with Radikal.

“Özil is no different from [German born, Turkish players] Nuri, Hamit or Mehmet, but circumstances took them to the Turkish team and him the German. I wish people would accept his decision,” he said.

“In Germany today there are Turkish politicians in the Bundestag and Turkish professors in the universities. We Turks came here 50 years ago as guest workers and brought skills to contribute to the country. My son is a part of this and Turkey should be proud of him.”

Yet Özil sat out training on Wednesday, citing Achilles tendon pain, and has yet to train with the squad. Coach Joachim Löw has said a decision would be made about his fitness on Thursday; just 24 hours before the match.

Undefeated so far, Guus Hiddink's team qualified following a 6 – 2 victory against Austria, and will be heading to the finals in Poland and Ukraine next year. Riding on a wave of nine consecutive victories, Hiddink said “I can see very few weaknesses [in the German team].”

However Löw admitted, "We have in fact a few question marks over our players," as key strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose are suffering from injuries. Their potential absence from the field could benefit Turkey, whose ticket to the finals still hangs in the balance despite two home wins in their string of six undefeated matches.

Turkey needs a better result against Germany than Belgium gets against Kazakhstan.

Turkish Left-back Gokhan Gonul said, "We know the power of Germany; they come with an unbeaten record in the group. We know it will be difficult, but not impossible."

Özil told Radikal that he hoped, “Turkey reaches the next round in the Euro 2012 competition.”

The Local/AFP/jcw

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