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Özil defends controversial picture with Turkish President Erdogan

Footballer Mesut Ozil said Sunday he had no regrets about his controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany's national squad ahead of the World Cup.

Özil defends controversial picture with Turkish President Erdogan
Photos: AFP/TURKISH PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE / KAYHAN OZER

Breaking his silence over the snapshot that caused outrage during the tournament, the Arsenal midfielder said in a statement on Twitter that he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement.

“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said.

“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”

 

 

Özil said he had first met Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match together.

“Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe,” he said.

“I'm aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”

Özil said despite the timing of the picture with teammate Ilkay Gundogan and Erdogan – shortly before the president won re-election in a poll endowing him with sweeping new powers – “it wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country”.

“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Özil said.

“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would've been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”

Özil, 29, came in for stinging criticism in Germany for their shock first-round defeat at the World Cup.

Team boss Oliver Bierhoff suggested after the debacle that Germany should have considered dropping Özil after his failure to explain himself over the Erdogan picture.

Bierhoff later backtracked, saying that he “was wrong” to put Özil under undue pressure, but the picture continued to draw scorn from fans on social media.

Germany is home to more than three million people of Turkish origin.

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FOOTBALL

German footballer Mesut Özil and teammate targeted by ‘armed car-jackers’

German footballer Mesut Özil and his Arsenal teammate Sead Kolasinac were attacked by 'knife-wielding car-jackers' in a terrifying ordeal which was captured on video and circulated on social media.

German footballer Mesut Özil and teammate targeted by 'armed car-jackers'
German footballer Mesut Özil and his Arsenal teammate Sead Kolasinac. Photo: DPA

In the footage, the Premier League club's Bosnian defender Kolasinac is seen leaping from the vehicle to confront the masked aggressors, who had pulled up alongside the car on mopeds in the Golders Green district of north London on Thursday evening.

Both attackers appeared to brandish knives at the 26-year-old Kolasinac. A YouTube video by the German football channel TeamEvil shows, through repeat footage, how Kolasinac fought off one of the attackers. 

“We have been in contact with both players and they are fine,” said a spokesman for Arsenal.

Police confirmed that they had responded to reports of an attempted robbery.

“It was reported that suspects on motorbikes had attempted to rob a man who was driving a car,” a spokesman for the Met Police told AFP.

“The driver, along with his passenger, managed to get away unharmed and travelled to a restaurant in Golders Green, where they were spoken to by officers.

“There have been no arrests. Enquiries continue.”

Kolasinac and midfielder Özil are not the first footballers to be targeted on London's streets.

In 2016, Andy Carroll, a former West Ham player, was threatened at gunpoint on his way home from training.

Controversy last year

In June former German international footballer Özil was married in Istanbul with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as his best man.

READ ALSO: Five key dates in the Mesut Özil saga

The 30-year-old, who has Turkish family roots, sparked controversy last year when he was photographed with Erdogan, raising questions about the footballer's loyalty to Germany on the eve of their disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign.

After 92 appearances for Germany, including a key role in the 2014 World Cup victory, Özil suddenly quit the national squad last July, accusing German football officials of racism.

READ ALSO: DFB president Grindel admits to mistakes in Özil affair

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