The head of the DFB Reinhard Grindel spoke to Kicker, the German football magazine, recently.
“Many fans were disappointed because they had questions for [Özil] and expected an answer,” he said. “For me, it is absolutely clear that, once he returns from holiday, and with his own interests in mind, he should make his views heard.”
Mesut Özil did just yesterday, flinging a hand grenade into the politics of German football and society in general.
The full messages are below (click to enlarge)
Özil’s justification for meeting Erdogan, for the photograph, is beyond weak. His advisers, particularly those who care for the ‘brand’ – or what’s left of it – failed miserably to warn him of the problems. A demagogue with a sneering contempt for the rule of law, willfully ignoring human rights, crushing opposition and suppressing free speech.
Özil, it is clear, is not interested in making his political views known nor did he want to take a stand against Erdogan. Fear for his safety as some suggest is as weak an argument as respect for heritage and family in this instance.
But whatever the rights and wrongs of that photo, there is no justification for what followed.
Grindel is the villain. Fuelling Islamaphobia as well as racism against the player and his family should bring sanction from FIFA. This is an organisation who chose to award the World Cup to Russia and Qatar; no sanction will follow. The DFB is not taking action either. While the FA are quick to reward incompetence, they do act equally quickly for social transgressions.
But the FA would not elect an outright racist such as Grindel to power. In two sentences, Özil lays bare the DFB president’s political views: “multiculturalism is, in reality, a myth [and] a lifelong lie”; voting against dual-nationality legislation; voting against punishment for bribery; sneering that Islamic culture is too ingrained in many German cities.
How a man with those views rose to lead an organisation which is obliged to promote multiculturalism and openly tackle phobias is beyond belief yet not surprising. Football doesn’t like logic; the politics of football hates it.
The abuse Özil cites should shock but it doesn’t. Anyone who uses the internet will see terms as bad as those mentioned in his statement, if not a lot worse. The electronic age killed off criticism; it’s just abuse now. Politicians fuel that as well. Back in the day, it was leaflets outside a ground but now they rely on a media which shares their despicable views and vacant minds willing to be manipulated online.
From the narrow footballing perspective, it’s hardly surprising he quit Germany. There was a collective failure among the German players, based on poor decision-making from Joachim Low. Neuer playing instead of Ter Stegen was the first mistake but there were plenty of others. Özil’s stats for the World Cup may look good but in a poor team, they are meaningless.
The Darkest of Clouds
That’s the issue though. It’s a team sport and a failure of three games is collective, not down to one player. And not for one of the better performers in the squad. A low bar, yes, but he exceeded it. In fact, the only other player I can think of who did likewise was Julian Brandt of Leverkusen.
He rightly points out the double standards applied to both Lothar Matthaus and a DFB sponsor, whose activities seem far more questionable. Ethnicity is the only reason Özil received media attention; there’s no point in anyone trying to claim otherwise.
In the end, he pulled the plug on his international career. There is a hint of a door being left ajar with a suggestion the decision could be reversed if Grindel stepped down and the racism addressed. As Özil says, “racism should never, ever be accepted.”
From a purely selfish point of view, it is good news for Arsenal. The remaining summers he is at the club will see him fit for duty from the off, as well as resting during the season-interrupting international breaks. In theory, he should suffer fewer injuries such as the one which interrupted the end of last season.
It’s a thin silver-lining because the cloud it’s emerging from is a vile, deep black.