During the pandemic, Premier League clubs have all stepped up in various ways with Arsenal providing nearly half of all meals supplied for vulnerable people.

Daily Mail 9 March 2021
Daily Mail 9 March 2021

Over the course of the past year we have heard plenty about the excellent work Marcus Rashford undertook in relation to free meals in schools for children but few other footballers received as much spotlight for their work.

Take Mesut Ozil, for instance, who was paying for meals for vulnerable people and school children before Rashford hit the headlines, and continued until he left the club (I’m making an assumption here, knowing Ozil he’s probably still paying for meals).

In total, Premier League clubs provided 1.15m meals for vulnerable people and Arsenal themselves provided 500,000 of them.

vulnerable people meals Daily Mail 9 March 2021
Daily Mail 9 March 2021
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18 April 2020

Mustafi pledges 16,000 meals to the Islington community

Shkodran Mustafi pledged more than 16,000 meals to the Islington community through The Arsenal Foundation as a birthday gift.

Bernd Leno and Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal celebrate victory during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on February 16, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
LONDON, ENGLAND: Bernd Leno and Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal celebrate victory on February 16, 2020. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced that Shkodran Mustafi was pledging 16,000 meals to the Islington community. For his 28th birthday, he decided to donate to The Arsenal Foundation to aid their emergency response plan.

“I know that there are people in Islington who are really struggling at the moment,” Mustafi wrote on Instagram. “I want to show my support to the community and to our Arsenal family for my birthday this year.

“I’ve seen the work the Islington Council and The Arsenal Foundation are doing. I want to join in and help by donating a delivery of over 16,000 meals and other emergency supplies to the people in Islington who need our support now more than ever.”

It’s a fantastic gesture from the defender, and one which will surely help a huge number of people in need.

The week before, Arsenal announced they were planning to donate 30,000 free meals, along with plenty of other forms of aid. This included sanitary and personal hygiene products, an £100k pledge to local organisations and £50k of partnership funding with Islington Giving towards the COVID-19 Crisis Fund.

28 October 2020

Mesut Ozil provides 1400 school meals per day in North London

Mesut Ozil has praised Marcus Rashford for his charitable efforts as the German continues his own philanthropy by providing 1400 meals for school children in Islington.

marcus rashford mesut ozil

When Marcus Rashford was in Primary School, Mesut Ozil was campaigning and already playing top level football. By the time the Manchester United forward made his debut for the Red Devils in 2015, Ozil had already won La Liga, the Spanish Cup, the German Cup, the FA Cup, the u21 Euros and, of course, the World Cup.

2015 was also the year Ozil was named German Player of the Year and won the German Football Ambassador Public Award.

Rashford was recently awarded an MBE for his campaign to get the government to help feed children in English schools. It is a cause that has been picked up by all the major papers. Rashford has been thrust to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness at a time when the Tory government seems more willing than usual to let the less fortunate die off.

Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, was just quietly getting on with things while being constantly slated by large sections of the media:

Marcus Rashford doing good but that’s not the point

Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford (L) reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2020. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP)
Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford (L) reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2020. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP)

What Rashford is doing is a good thing, although it is not a good thing that we need a footballer to help feed kids, a point that often gets lost as people rush to praise Rashford. I’m sure the 22-year-old would much rather there was no need for him to campaign so children can have the very basics needed to survive in what is supposed to be an advanced society.

Even the Daily Mail have got behind Rashford, despite the fact that he’s black and writers for the front half of the paper are probably, as we speak, preparing takedown pieces just in case he gets a bit ahead of himself and needs put back in his place alongside Raheem Sterling.

But’s he’s also English and that matters in the UK English media.

Ozil’s causes weren’t quite as popular as Rashford’s. There was no call for any awards or wall-to-wall coverage when Ozil used his World Cup winnings, for instance, to pay for surgery for multiple children in Brazil to say thank you for the country’s hospitality.

When Ozil spoke out against the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China, he was persecuted to protect access to the Chinese market. There was little said about Ozil helping to feed 100,000 refugees at 16 camps across Turkey and Syria, or the 1,000 operations he paid for in 2019.

Time and time again, Ozil has used his platform to speak out about things most tell him he should shut up about. Even his pandemic paycut refusal was an attempt to seek clarity and safeguard jobs at Arsenal by asking the club to prove publicly they would use the money to save jobs. If they did that, Ozil’s agent said, the German would happily give up an even larger share of his wages.

Arsenal showed him nothing and then showed the rest of us he was right to be sceptical when they made 55 staff (and then some) redundant.

None of this is to detract from what Rashford is doing. It’s merely offered as a way of showing how important the press are when it comes to the general perceptions of players.

Ozil tweeted the United star to congratulate him on his campaign:

To many, this was simply Ozil’s PR machine. To those who have paid attention to what Ozil actually does, not just what the press say he’s doing (or not doing as tends to be the case with Ozil), this was just Ozil being Ozil.

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Mesut Ozil’s paycut refusal

Ozil’s wages have been the source of a constant conversation ever since Arsenal threw £350kpw at him in a desperate bid to get him to stay. Since then, he has been treated as though that was his fault.

Daily Mail 21 April 2020

Ozil’s agent, Dr Erkut Sogut, apparently refused to comment, which is most unlike him as he likes to clarify things about his client, especially when it comes to money.

This story was, of course, spun as Ozil being greedy but there were a few specifics missed that I think are important to highlight:

  • Ozil’s agent stated the player was ready to take a much more significant deferral than 12.5% when the club showed actual financial losses.
  • Ozil’s agent wanted the club to show they lost enough revenue to necessitate cutting wages so early, a figure that was not known at the time and is still not be apparent many months later.
  • Ozil was only ‘understood’ to be one of THREE players who took a similar stance. The other two have never been mentioned, presumably because they aren’t called Mesut Ozil.
  • The Professional Football Association warned ALL players and ALL clubs not to accept cuts ahead of deferrals.

If your boss wanted you to take a significant paycut while seemingly still making a large profit, wouldn’t you want to see actual figures before you agreed?

Ozil’s stance was hardly unreasonable, regardless of what you think of how much Arsenal pay him, and was certainly not what the Mail and Mirror tried to portray it as

Arsenal said they would pay the full 12.5% back if the club qualify for the Champions League in the next two seasons, 7.5% if they get into the Europa League and nothing if they fail. There is also a £100k bonus pool.

It should set off alarm bells that this was more about cutting the wage bill than navigating the current crisis, but it is no surprise to see Ozil being made the scapegoat once again.

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