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FOOTBALL

Five key dates in the Mesut Özil saga

Here are the key moments that culminated in Mesut Özil's bombshell announcement he was retiring from international football after a career including Germany's triumph at the 2014 World Cup.

Five key dates in the Mesut Özil saga
Özil and Gündogan in Sotchi on 26th June. Photo: DPA

Erdogan meeting

The fiasco started on May 13 when Özil and fellow Germany midfielder Ilkay Gündogan met Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London during a charity gala event.

Both players posed for pictures with Erdogan, who they presented with shirts of their respective clubs Arsenal and Manchester City, the latter of which was signed “for my president” by City star Gündogan.

The photos were released on social media by Erdogan's election campaign team on May 14th, the day before the Germany squad for the World Cup finals was announced.

Gündogan posted on Instagram to say the pictures were not a “political statement”, but Özil kept silent.

They were heavily criticised by German politicians and football pundits, while Reinhard Grindel, the president of the German FA (DFB), said the players had allowed themselves to be “manipulated”.

World Cup call-up

Despite heavy criticism in Germany of the controversial pictures, head coach Joachim Löw named both Özil and Gündogan in his provisional World Cup squad on May 15th.

“Not for a second” had Löw thought of leaving them out, despite calls for the pair to be dropped.

On May 19th, Özil and Gündogan meet Löw and senior DFB officials, plus German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, in a failed attempt to clear up the matter.

Steinmeier said both players affirmed their loyalty to Germany during the meeting.

“I grew up here and I'm faithful to my country,” Özil was quoted by Steinmeier as saying, while Gündogan added, “Germany is today clearly my country and my team”.

Jeers and whistles

Özil and Gündogan were jeered and whistled by travelling German fans during a 2-1 friendly defeat away to Austria in Klagenfurt on June 2nd, despite Özil scoring the opening goal.

Özil sat out the narrow friendly win over Saudi Arabia six days later in Leverkusen, but Gündogan was booed when he came on and reportedly later wept in the German dressing room.

Bierhoff blunder

Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus said Özil no longer seemed comfortable playing in the Germany shirt in the wake of the shock 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opening World Cup game.

Löw then dropped Özil for the last-gasp 2-1 win over Sweden, but reinstated him for the 2-0 defeat to South Korea which saw the holders crash out in the group stages.

In an interview on July 6th in newspaper Welt, Germany's team director Oliver Bierhoff implied Özil should have been left out of the World Cup squad – then back-tracked in an embarrassing twist.

Two days later, Grindel says Özil should make his position clear to German fans in magazine Kicker, while Özil's father rejected the criticism and says his son should retire from Germany duty.

Özil quits

After scoring 23 goals in 92 matches for Germany, Özil retired from international football with immediate effect on July 22th after breaking his silence in lengthy posts on Twitter and Instagram.

“For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country,” he wrote.

“The treatment I have received from the DFB and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt.

“I feel unwanted and think what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.

“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose.”

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FOOTBALL

British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.

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