German footballer Mesut Özil has announced his shock resignation from the national team, citing an environment of racial discrimination fostered at the highest levels of the organisation.
Özil, who was a crucial part of the squad’s 2014 World Cup winning squad and featured in 2018’s underwhelming campaign, issued the statement on Facebook while discussing his Muslim faith, Turkish heritage, and the negative media reaction to his recent meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The 29-year-old Arsenal playmaker said the photo he took with Erdoğan, a far-right leader frequently criticised for the degradation of human rights standards under his tenure, also led to undue scrutiny from German Football Association president Reinhard Grindel.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am a German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said.
“I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level while I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t,” he added.
The midfielder’s message is one of several recent statements from elite European footballers discussing the disparity between how they are considered when they win, and how they are portrayed when they lose.
Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, who was born and raised in Antwerp to Congolese parents, recently said “When things were going well, I was reading newspapers articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker.
“When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.”
French defender Benjamin Mendy, who was part of the nation’s 2018 World Cup-winning squad, also put his spin on a recent article highlighting the descent of many French players.
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) July 17, 2018
You can read Özil’s full statement below: