German footballer Mesut Ozil quits national team, citing racism and disrespect

German footballer Mesut Ozil has quit international football, citing the “racism and disrespect” he has faced in Germany over his Turkish roots.

The 29-year-old says he received criticism from German media after meeting Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan in May in London, alongside his Germany teammate, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, who is also of Turkish descent, and Turkey’s Cenk Tosun, who plays for Premier League club Everton.

He says he received hate mail and threats and was being blamed for Germany’s disappointing World Cup.

“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil said.

In the statement released on Sunday, Ozil said that a section of the German media had “repeatedly” blamed his dual heritage and “a simple picture” — posing with Erdogan — “for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad.”

“The treatment I have received from the DFB (German football federation) and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt,” he said.

Despite being born in the country, and winning the World Cup in 2014, the player went on to say he feels he is “still not accepted into society” and “treated as ‘different.’

“Is it because it is Turkey?” or “Is it because I’m a Muslim?” asked Ozil.

However, the German Football Federation (DFB) has denied Mesut Ozil’s allegations of racism.

The DFB responded on Monday and admits it played a role in questions being raised of Ozil’s actions, but maintains he should have followed the lead of Gundogan and explained himself.

“The pictures with the Turkish president Erdogan raised questions in the German society,” the statement read. “We admit that the DFB has a share in this.”

“And we regret that Mesut Ozil had the feeling that he wasn’t protected enough against racist slogans – like Jerome Boateng once was.”

“But it was important that Mesut Ozil gave answers to the topic, like Ilkay Gundogan did, regardless of the result at the World Cup in Russia. At the DFB, we win and lose together, everyone as a team.”

“The DFB would have been happy if Mesut Ozil remained a part of the team. He decided to not do so.”

“We respect that and it is a sign of respect that we leave some of the statements that we do not agree with in terms of content and tone uncommented in public.”

“We emphatically reject the DFB being linked to racism. The DFB has been very involved in integration work in Germany for many years.”

“The DFB regrets the departure of Mesut Ozil from the national team. However, this does not change the determination of the association to continue the successful integration work consistently and with deep conviction.”