Ozil defends controversial picture with Erdogan

In this handout picture taken on May 13, 2018 and released on May 14, 2018 by the Turkish Presidential Press office Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) poses for a photo with German footballers of Turkish origin Ilkay Gundogan (L) and Mesut Ozil (2nd L) in London. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Ozil defends controversial picture with Erdogan

  • Ozil said he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins
  • He insisted he did not intend to make a political statement

BERLIN: Footballer Mesut Ozil said Sunday he had no regrets about his controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany’s national squad ahead of the World Cup.
Breaking his silence over the snapshot that caused outrage during the tournament, the Arsenal midfielder said in a statement on Twitter that he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement.
“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”
Ozil said he had first met Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match together.
“Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe,” he said.
“I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”
Ozil said despite the timing of the picture with teammate Ilkay Gundogan and Erdogan — shortly before the president won re-election in a poll endowing him with sweeping new powers — “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Ozil said.
“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”
Ozil, 29, came in for stinging criticism in Germany for their shock first-round defeat at the World Cup.
Team boss Oliver Bierhoff suggested after the debacle that Germany should have considered dropping Ozil after his failure to explain himself over the Erdogan picture.
Bierhoff later backtracked, saying that he “was wrong” to put Ozil under undue pressure, but the picture continued to draw scorn from fans on social media.
Germany is home to more than three million people of Turkish origin.


Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

Updated 25 min 4 sec ago
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Myanmar Buddhist temple now a nirvana for snakes

  • ‘People come here because they believe that their prayers will be fulfilled when they ask for something’
  • The mythical ‘naga’ – a Sanskrit word for snake – is a common figure seen in temples throughout Southeast Asia

YANGON: Crossing a bridge to the middle of a lake in Myanmar’s Yangon region, pilgrims arrive at a temple to pin their hopes on the pythons slinking across the temple’s floors and draped across windows.
“People come here because they believe that their prayers will be fulfilled when they ask for something,” said Sandar Thiri, a nun residing at the Baungdawgyoke pagoda – dubbed the “snake temple” by locals.
“The rule is that people can only ask for one thing, not many things,” she said. “Don’t be greedy.”
In the main room of the temple is a tree with figurines of Buddha around it. The serpents move slowly through the branches, their forked tongues darting in and out as they gaze down on the worshippers prostrating themselves.
Many locals regard the presence of the dozens of pythons, some measuring up to two or three meters in length, as a sign of the pagoda’s power.
Win Myint, 45, said he has been coming to Baungdawgyoke since he was a child.
“Now I am older and I come to give offerings, which has made some of my wishes come true.”
Nearby, a monk dozes on a chair with two serpents curled at his feet, their thick bodies holding 1,000-kyat notes (worth about 60 US cents) tucked in between their coils by hopeful visitors. A woman, brave enough to venture close to a python, gently caresses it.
The mythical “naga” – a Sanskrit word for snake – is a common figure seen in temples throughout Southeast Asia, where Buddhist, Hindu and animist influences are intertwined. Nagas are usually carved out of stone and placed at the entrances.
But seeing a live snake slithering among Buddha statues is rare, and for some visitors, that serves as a draw to visit Baungdawgyoke — a short drive southwest of downtown Yangon.
With snakes curled up next to meditating monks, the image is reminiscent of a story in Buddhist mythology when the Buddha sat under a tree to meditate.
According to the legend, as it started to rain, a cobra protected Buddha by fanning its hood wide over his head to act as a shelter.
Nay Myo Thu, a 30-year-old farmer, believes he will receive good fortune by bringing the snakes he finds in his fields to the temple instead of killing them, adhering to a Buddhist belief that all animals are sentient beings that can be reincarnated as humans.
“I don’t want to bring about any misfortune by killing a creature,” Nay Myo Thu said. “Catching and donating the snakes brings me good fortune instead.”