The 31-year-old insists he has no regrets over the snap, despite becoming the target of racist abuse in the wake of his country’s shock World Cup exit in 2018.
Ozil came under heavy criticism for his picture with Erdogan, who has been described as a modern-day dictator by his harshest critics and his three-day London visit last year was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.
Mesut Ozil has defended his controversial snap with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ozil, who was born in Germany but has Turkish heritage, presented Erdogan with a signed Arsenal shirt during the meeting and insists he will respect anyone in the ‘highest position’ of a country, whether that is Turkey, Germany or another nation.
‘[Erdogan] is the current president of Turkey and I would show respect to that person, whoever it was,’ Ozil told The Athletic. ‘Although I was born and raised in Germany, Turkey is part of my heritage.
‘If the German president or [Chancellor] Angela Merkel are in London and ask to see me, to speak to me, of course I would do that as well. It’s just about showing respect to the highest position of a country.’
Following the meeting with the Turkish president, Ozil insisted he felt ‘unprotected’ by claiming that no-one stood up for him after he received abuse for the snap.
(Left to right) Ilkay Gundogan, Ozil, Erdogan and Cenk Tosun pose for a photo in May 2018
‘After the photo, I felt disrespected and unprotected. I was receiving racist abuse — even from politicians and public figures — yet nobody from the national team came out at that time and said, “Hey, stop. This is our player, you can’t insult him like that”. Everyone just kept quiet and let it happen.’
Ozil also said he received vile abuse for the photo before insisting that his country as a problem with racism. The Gunners foward went on to cite the tragic events in Halle, east Germany, which saw a gunman kill two people in a synagogue last week.
‘There are major problems in Germany — just look at what happened in Halle last week, another anti-semitic attack. Unfortunately, racism is no longer only a right-wing issue in the country. It has shifted into the middle of society.’
Following Germany’s shock exit at the 2018 World Cup, the playmaker penned an explosive letter that said he was used as a ‘scapegoat’ before sensationally claiming, ‘I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose’.
Ozil claims he was used as a ‘scapegoat’ following Germany’s shock exit at the 2018 World Cup
Ozil sits dejected on the bench after Germany are knocked out of the World Cup in Russia
In the statement, Ozil claimed he was turned into ‘political propaganda’ and no longer felt pride in wearing the national shirt.
Following their exit at the group stages in Russia, Ozil reveals he received racist abuse from his fellow countrymen. The former Real Madrid star also reveals how Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was racially abused.
He added: ‘When we were knocked out and I came off the pitch, German people were telling me, “Go back to your country”, “F*** yourself”, “Turkish pig” and stuff like that.
‘Before the tournament there was a friendly in Leverkusen and when the ball came to Ilkay Gundogan [who was also photographed with Erdogan], most of the stadium was booing him. I heard them shouting, “Goat f***er”, “f***ing Turkish boy” and other insults that I can’t repeat.’