German newspaper, Morgenpost, have a huge, front page story, asking if Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan should be dropped from the German squad ahead of the World Cup after meeting with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The German FA have already made it known that they were not pleased with Ozil for posing with Erdogan, however he was still named in their World Cup preliminary squad for Russia.
Erdogan was in the UK as part of a state visit and he was pictured with Ozil, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and Everton’s Cenk Tousan, who all presented the wannbe dictator with signed shirts.
The stunt comes in the run-up to an election in Turkey where Erdogan is hopeful of increasing his grip in a country where he has already imprisoned more than 150 journalists since a failed coup in the summer of 2016.
“The DFB of course respects the special situation for our players with migrant backgrounds, but football and the DFB stands for values that Mr Erdogan does not sufficiently respect,” DFB president Reinhard Grindel said.
“Therefore, it is not a good thing that our internationals have let themselves be exploited for his election campaign stunt. It certainly hasn’t helped the DFB’s integration efforts.”
Oliver Bierhoff, general manager of the German national team, added, “I still have absolutely no doubts about Mesut and Ilkay’s commitment to playing for the Germany national team and how much they identify with our values.
“They were unaware of the symbolism of these pictures, but we cannot endorse it, and we will discuss the matter with the players.”
Ozil missed Arsenal’s final games of the season with a back injury but is expected to be fit enough to play at the World Cup.
The problem was one that he was carrying all season, according to his agent.
Morgenpost, meanwhile, asked on Wednesday, “With their Meeting with the controversial Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the German national team [players] Ilkay Gundogan and Mesut Ozil have scored an own goal.
“We have made the two realise that it was not a happy one”, said national coach Joachim Löw, Gündogan and Özil yesterday, nevertheless, for the World Cup squad has been nominated. He has made the right decision?”
In their defence, Nils Weber, writes, “Dark yellow card! An expulsion would be exaggerated and hypocritical.
“My first thought when I saw the photo: How stupid can you be?! The strange and embarrassing appearance of midfielders Özil and Gündogan with right wing Erdogan, favourite for the Turkish presidential campaign and a penalty for the AfD, underpins my assessment that game intelligence and intelligence are two different pairs of football boots – while Gündogan is actually considered a bright head.
“But how do you sanction a stupidity? Certainly not with another one. The demand to throw both of them out of the national team is reflexive, short-sighted, exaggerated, polemical, in many comments nationalist-racist and not worthy of a democracy.
“I find the debate hypocritical.
“Özil and Gündogan are not German enough because they court Erdogan, but Germany is really German because it supplies weapons to Turkey?
“How now DFB President Reinhard Grindel regulates the players and babbles about the values of the Association is hypocritical. Ironically, Grindel and the DFB, who make good on the abuses of World Cup hosts Russia, maintain the best contacts with the Association of dictatorship Azerbaijan and invite for the World Cup dress rehearsal Saudi Arabia (!). No question, Özil and Gündogan have made an unacceptable mistake that costs them sympathy. From now on they play on probation. That’s going to be tough enough. An expulsion would be Erdogan style.
“Proposal: A fine for integration projects. With a visit for both players!”
In favour of banning them from the World Cup, Christian Burmeister explains his reasoning.
“If a national player makes an election campaign for the NPD [a far-right German polictical party], he has nothing to fear from the DFB and Jogi Löw except a little hot air.
“Because Özil and Gündogan have done something similar: campaigning for a man who pursues dissidents, tens of thousands locked away without trial, goes on conquest campaigns and wants to rise to the sole ruler.
“That’s exactly what the NPD dreams of.
“Of course you can defend the two with the argument that they did not know what they were doing. They are just naive footballers. But especially with Gündogan, the high school graduate from Gelsenkirchen, this is hard to imagine.
“The two are admired role models for millions. Especially for many children and adolescents. They were considered a prime example of successful integration.
“What is the actual message, if both of them are allowed to pay homage to an autocrat and his totalitarian ideology with impunity?
“The DFB has missed the chance to show that it is serious about the often-preached values of tolerance and fair play.
“And Matthäus, Effenberg or Uli Stein are due to lesser mistakes from the DFB team.
“Özil and Gündogan have not earned a lifelong ban. But a break for a World Cup length anyway!
“Then maybe they would also find time to talk to Deniz Yücel.”
Yücel is a German-Turkish journalist branded a ‘spy’ that supports terrorist organisations by Erdogan’s government. He was formally indicted by a Turkish court on 14 February, 2017 and imprisoned until his release just over a year later.