ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the treatment of Mesut Ozil after the soccer star quit Germany’s national team was racist and unacceptable.
He said he spoke to Ozil on Monday night and described his attitude as meriting the highest level of admiration, adding Ozil’s critics “could not stomach” the photograph of the soccer star and Erdogan that prompted criticism ahead of the World Cup.
“Such a racist treatment toward a young man who has given his all to the German national team for his religious beliefs is unacceptable,” Erdogan told reporters in parliament.
Authorities in Ozil’s ancestral Turkish town have erected a new street sign showing the photo of him in May with Erdogan, replacing one picturing him wearing the international strip of Germany, the country of his birth.
Several prominent officials in Turkey, including the head of the Turkish Football Federation Yildirim Demiroren, have thrown their support behind Ozil since he announced on Sunday that he would not play again for Germany.
“We condemn the treatment, threats and derogatory messages that he has received because of his heritage and background,” Demiroren said.
The most prominent German politician of Turkish heritage, Cem Ozdemir, called on Monday for the resignation of German Football Association (DFB) head Reinhard Grindel, who Ozil said had blamed him for Germany’s early departure from this year’s World Cup in Russia.
Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Julia Harte; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans