Germany’s Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from international football on Sunday at the age of 29.
The Arsenal midfielder will not add to his 92 caps, 23 goals and 40 assists for his country following political tensions regarding his Turkish roots and being dropped from the starting XI during this summer’s World Cup as the defending champions crashed out in the group stage.
Ozil was heavily criticised in Germany for his meeting with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, when he and Ilkay Gundogan posed for a photo with the Turkish president during his visit to London.
The Arsenal midfielder finally broke his silence on the issue on Sunday by posting a lengthy statement on social media insisting that he had done nothing wrong before finally concluding that he was done playing for the German national team.
“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” he wrote. “I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t.”
Born in Gelsenkirchen to Turkish parents, Ozil opted to play for Germany in November 2006 when invited by Turkey’s FA to take part in a friendly against Italy, saying that he did “not plan to take on Turkish citizenship.”
Gundogan explained his part in the Erdogan photograph, but Ozil opted to remain silent on the issue in the lead-up to the World Cup, leading to political turmoil.
The German football federation has said the meeting was ill-advised. Ozil’s performances at the World Cup were also heavily scrutinised in wake of the controversy, with Germany going out in the group stage.
Ozil became a key player for Germany’s golden generation, starting by winning the 2009 Under-21 European Championships, as the like of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Benedikt Howedes and Ozil became a core group in the senior team that went on to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Ozil made his senior debut for Germany in February 2009 and went on to become one of the stars of a revived German side at the 2010 World Cup, as the team finished third, starting in every match in South Africa.
He would then start in every game at a major tournament until Germany’s 2-1 win against Sweden at the 2018 World Cup, which came after a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the opening game, amid the ongoing row over his willingness to integrate into German society.