Ozil’s resignation sparks Germany racism storm as Ankara cheers

Mesut Ozil said he was true to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement by appearing in a photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just before the World Cup finals. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Ozil’s resignation sparks Germany racism storm as Ankara cheers

  • After months of silence over a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May Ozil erupted on Sunday
  • The Arsenal midfielder posted a stinging four-page statement taking aim at German Football Association (DFB) bosses sponsors and the media

BERLIN: Mesut Ozil’s decision to quit playing for Germany unleashed a racism storm in Berlin on Monday, but earned the applause of Ankara with a Turkish minister hailing “a goal against the virus of fascism.”
After months of silence over a controversial photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, which sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany, Ozil erupted on Sunday.
The Arsenal midfielder posted a stinging four-page statement taking aim at German Football Association (DFB) bosses, sponsors and the media.
Ozil, a key member of the squad which won the 2014 World Cup, blamed the DFB management, in particular its president Reinhard Grindel, for failing to side with him against his critics.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote.
The 29-year-old said he was true to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement by appearing with Erdogan just before the World Cup finals.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” said Ozil, who was repeatedly singled out for criticism after Germany’s woeful performance at the World Cup saw them crash out after the group stages.
Ozil’s explosive statement, in three separate postings on Twitter and Instagram, was hailed by Erdogan’s government, which has championed a campaign against what Ankara sees as growing Islamophobia in Europe.
“I congratulate Mesut Ozil who by leaving the national team has scored the most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul wrote on Twitter.
But it was met with a mix of dismay and outrage in Germany. The German Football Association (DFB) rejected claims of racism made by Mesut Ozil against their president Reinhard Grindel in an angry resignation letter.
“We reject the notion that the DFB is associated with racism,” read a statement.
“The DFB stands for diversity, from the representatives at the top to the boundless, day-to-day dedication of people at the base.”
Underlining that sports brings a lot to integration in a country, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she respects Ozil’s decision.
“The chancellor values Mesut Ozil highly. He is a great footballer who has contributed a great deal to the national team,” said Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, adding that he has “now made a decision that must be respected.”
Justice Minister Katarina Barley wrote on Twitter that it was an “alarm bell if a great German footballer like Mesut Ozil no longer feels wanted in his country or represented by the DFB.”
Cem Ozdemir of the Greens party also voiced dismay that “young German-Turks now get the impression that they have no place in the German national team.”
At the same time, Ozdemir, who himself has Turkish roots, said Ozil “did not live up to his function of setting examples” by failing to distance himself from the hard-line Turkish leader.
Germany’s best-selling newspaper Bild led the charge of criticism against Ozil, calling his statement a “whiny resignation” and said he heaped “criticism on everyone but himself.”
Bild, which has for weeks called for Ozil to be dropped from the starting team, also rejected his claims that his Turkish origin and Erdogan photo have been used by some media to pander to the far-right.
“Ozil’s world view here is dangerously close to Erdogan and his despots,” charged the tabloid-style daily.
The photo, which was published on Turkey’s presidential website and the Twitter feed of the ruling party, came just before the June 24 polls Erdogan won to claim sweeping new powers.
Ozil has insisted that “it wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country.”
For Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, “all parties in the affair should engage in some soul-searching. I see few here who have really behaved correctly.”
Born and raised in Gelsenkirchen, Ozil has scored 23 goals and made 40 assists in 92 appearances with Die Mannschaft. He is third-generation German-Turk and counts among more than three million people of Turkish origin in Germany.
The DFB has so far stayed mum. In a first reaction from his former teammates, defender Jerome Boateng wrote on Twitter using the Turkish word for “brother“: “It was a pleasure, Abi.”
Former DFB chief Theo Zwanziger warned that the debacle was a “serious blow to the integration efforts in our country that goes beyond football.”
For Tagesspiegel daily, the entire affair was a “watershed for sports, politics and society.”
While noting that Ozil’s thinking that the Erdogan photograph could be non-political was “naive,” it said the fiasco had far reaching consequences.
“Ultimately, Ozil did not fall because of Grindel but because of a heated, populist mood in Germany,” it said.
“The danger exists because many who also have family roots in other countries or culture, can understand Ozil’s mood. And this needs to be countered quickly and decisively.
“Because more is at stake than just the future of the German national football team.”


Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

Updated 21 May 2019
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Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

  • The two-time defending NBA champions reach the title series for a fifth consecutive season
  • The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both posted triple-doubles to power the Golden State Warriors to a 119-117 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers and into a fifth straight NBA Finals.
The two-time defending NBA champions reached the title series for a fifth consecutive season with the triumph in Portland, sweeping the Blazers in four games in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.
The only other team to reach five straight NBA Finals was the Boston Celtics, when they went to a record 10 in a row from 1957 to 1966.
The Warriors will battle for the title starting on May 30 against either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors, aiming to become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers of 2000, 2001 and 2002 to three-peat as champions.
Curry and Green became the first teammates in league history to have triple-doubles in the same post-season game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Curry finished with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while Green had his second straight triple-double — posting double digits in three key statistical categories — with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Fittingly, Curry and Green combined on the game-winning basket in overtime, Curry feeding Green for a three-pointer that pushed Golden State to a 119-115 lead with 39.6 seconds left in overtime.
The Trail Blazers had led 69-65 at halftime, and built the lead to 17 in the third quarter.
But Golden State, playing without injured superstar Kevin Durant as well as DeMarcus Cousins and veteran Andre Iguodala, chipped away, scoring the last nine points of the third period to close within 95-87 and knotting the score at 104-104 on Curry’s layup with 4:34 left in regulation.
Both teams had a chance to win in regulation, but Curry traveled before draining a three-pointer that didn’t count and Lillard was unable to get through in traffic as time expired with the score tied 111-111.
Portland star Lillard, playing with painful separated ribs, finished with 28 points while unheralded Meyers Leonard led the Trail Blazers with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
CJ McCollum added 26 for the Trail Blazers, but it wasn’t enough for a team that had fended off elimination twice in their second-round series against the Denver Nuggets.