Germany playmaker, Mesut Özil, sensationally resigned (not retired) from the national team owing to what he termed his mistreatment by the German football federation (DFB) and the association’s president, Reinhard Grindel.
According to Özil, he had been singled out for criticism by them as well as the German media following the team’s shock exit at the World Cup group stage, with the criticism highlighting his Turkish descent and including his photo with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just before the World Cup started.
The racist attitude shown to Özil is one many other players have talked about for years, more so in recent times by Nigeria International defender, Leon Balogun, Belgium striker, Romelu Lukaku, and France striker, Karim Benzema.
The issue of total inclusion by a player’s country when all is well and a sudden detachment by associating same player with his country of descent when all is not well is one which brews just under the surface of international football.
This has previously been commented on by Benzema and Lukaku, with Benzema once stating he is referred to as French when he scores and suddenly tagged to his Algerian roots when he does not score for France. Lukaku, who is of Congolese descent, has suffered similar attitude with Belgium.
Most shocking about Özil’s situation is the comments from some quarters in German football, with Bayern Munich President, Ulrich Hoeneß, who implied Özil leaving the German team is good riddance because, according to him, the Arsenal midfielder has not performed for the national team since 2014.
Hoeneß’s comments only gives a peek into some of the similar opinions held by other football chiefs in Germany regarding Özil particularly and probably, other players who have dual nationalities like him.
Coupled with Özil’s stance, it also deals a big blow in the confidence of upcoming talents in similar position as such players could begin to question their value in the eyes of football chiefs.
Most of all, it reminds everyone who is after the idea of football being ‘the beautiful game’ of the amount of work that still needs to be done in order to make the sport, and indeed all other sports, a platform devoid of such racial biases.
It is one thing for the governing bodies to preach a message condemning such views that lead to a player such as Özil becoming disillusioned because of murmurs over his nationality, and it is another for the leaders of these governing bodies and/or those around them to hold opposing views.