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‘I felt disrespected’: Mesut Özil opens up on racism and German football

Mesut Özil has opened up about being at the centre of an attempted car-jacking and his explosive resignation from the Germany team following racist abuse.

'I felt disrespected': Mesut Özil opens up on racism and German football
Özil celebrating a goal in April in London. Photo: DPA

The Arsenal midfielder, his wife Amine and team-mate Sead Kolasinac were involved in a terrifying car-jacking on July 25th, two weeks before the Premier League season started.

Footage on social media showed Bosnian defender Kolasinac chasing off two moped attackers, who were wearing helmets.

A man admitted in a London court earlier this month to trying to rob Özil and Kolasinac and will be sentenced in November.

READ ALSO: German footballer Mesut Özil and teammate targeted by 'armed car-jacker'

“Sead's reaction was really, really brave because he attacked one of the attackers,” Özil, 31, said in an interview with The Athletic published on Thursday.

“The second one was in front of my car on his moped so I couldn't drive.

“We were newly wed and I was scared about my wife. I was scared about Sead. I wasn't thinking about myself. I was worried they were going to open my wife's door and they tried, so I reached across her to keep it closed.”

Özil, currently out of favour at Arsenal, said although nobody was harmed physically, the incident shook up his wife.

“My wife wanted to get away immediately,” said the ex-Germany international.

“She didn't feel safe. Even if I let our dogs into the garden and went out with them she would say, 'Come in, come in, stay in the house.'”

But he said the incident did not make him want to leave London and he plans to stay until his Arsenal contract expires in 2021.

The 2014 World Cup winner has played just two matches this season, fuelling speculation over his long-term future.


Özil at a test match between FC Arsenal and FC Bayern München in July. Photo: DPA

'Immigrant when we lose'

“When I signed the new deal (in 2018) I thought about it very carefully,” he said.

“I didn't want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit and the club wanted me to do the same.

“You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away and I'm not going to. I'm here until at least 2021.”

Özil spoke of his disappointment at being singled out for blame when Unai Emery's team under-performs.

“If we don't do well in a 'big' game, it's always my fault,” said the midfielder, who joined Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013.

“If that's true, how do you explain our results in the 'big' games when I wasn't involved?

“I know people expect me to offer more, dictate play and make the difference — I do, too — but it's not that straightforward.”

He also opened up about his shock early retirement from international football  following a disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign in which Germany failed to qualify from their group, claiming that he is seen as “a German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose”.

Özil fell out of favour with German fans on the eve of those finals by controversially posing for a picture with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I don't say people must love me, but just show respect about what I've done for Germany,” said Özil, who made 92 international appearances.

READ ALSO: 'Scapegoat Özil' should quit German team, says father

“My generation changed German football. It became more fun to watch.

“But after the (Erdogan) photo, I felt disrespected and unprotected.

“I was receiving racist abuse — even from politicians and public figures — yet nobody from the national team came out and said, 'Hey, stop. This is our player, you can't insult him like that'.

“Racism has always been there, but people used this situation as an excuse to let it out.”

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SPORTS

German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

Bundesliga clubs and other German sports venues will be allowed to welcome up to 25,000 spectators from next month, the city of Berlin said Tuesday after a meeting of officials from Germany's 16 states.

German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season
Germany fans at the recent Euro 2020 match in London. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

Most matches in Germany’s top football league were played behind closed doors last season – so-called Geisterspiele or ghost games – because of the Covid-19 virus.

The new Bundesliga season starts on August 13th and with infection rates having fallen sharply, sports stadiums could be at 50 percent capacity, with the total number per match or event capped at 25,000.

The only exception is reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, where up to 20,000 fans will be allowed into home games at the 75,000-capacity Allianz Arena because officials in Bavaria are allowing only 35 percent of capacity.

The new rules apply until September 11 and amid concerns in Germany about the Delta variant of the coronavirus, incidence rates must not exceed 35 new infections per 100,000 people over the previous seven days.

READ ALSO: German states call for uniform Covid rules at big events

If that happens, and “the infection cannot be clearly contained”, a maximum of 5,000 spectators will be allowed into sports events, German officials warned.

Only fans who can prove they are vaccinated or present a negative test will be allowed into stadiums and hygiene rules must be followed.

An easing of the regulations meant crowds of around 14,000 were allowed to attend Euro 2020 matches at Munich’s Allianz Arena over the last three weeks, but fans were largely kept out of German league games last season.

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