By Andrew Warshaw

July 25 – Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has waded into the row over Mesut Ozil’s shock retirement from international football on racism grounds by saying the treatment towards the Arsenal midfielder was unacceptable.

Ozil suddenly quit international football at the age of 29 at the weekend after revealing that he and his family had received hate mail, threatening phone calls and online abuse sparked by his Turkish roots and specifically being photographed with Erdogan in London in May.

The controversy has caused uproar in Germany and as the row spilled over into the political arena, Erdogan has now further fuelled the controversy by revealing he backed Ozil’s decision to quit in a telephone call with the player.

“Last night I spoke to Mesut. His attitude in the statement is completely patriotic, it is absolutely praiseworthy behaviour,” Erdogan said, quoted by state news agency Anadolu. “I kiss him on his eyes,” Erdogan added, using a Turkish term of affection for a loved one or friend.

“It is not possible to accept this kind of racist, Islamophobic attitude towards a young man who gave and added so much to the success of the German national team. This really cannot be accepted.”

Ozil, who was born in Germany to Turkish-origin parents, was a key member of the German squad which won the 2014 World Cup but had a poor tournament in Russia. His reaction was to heap criticism on the German Football Association, sponsors and the media, lamenting what he described as a lack of support and being used as scapegoat for Germany’s shock early elimination.

The German FA stressed on Monday that it rejected “the notion that the DFB is associated with racism”.

But the Turkish FA, who by co-incidence are vying with Germany to stage the 2024 Euros, took a somewhat different view saying it condemned Ozil’s treatment.

“Every player, no matter whether they are in the public eye or not, has a right to be protected from abuse, discrimination and messages expressing hate,” it said, offering its “full support to Mesut Ozil and his family”.

“We condemn the treatment, threats and derogatory messages that Ozil has received because of his heritage and background.

“All members of the global football community must be united in our continued efforts to drive out racism and intolerance — and we must work together to ensure football can realise its potential to achieve positive social impact that promotes the values of inclusivity and respect.”

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Paul Nicholson