The Turkishness of Mesut Ozil
Although many Australian soccer lovers would have started watching him after his transfer to Arsenal, Mesut Ozil has been well-known to soccer fans for almost a decade now.
In the words of Man Utd coach Mourinho, Mesut Ozil is “the best number 10 in the world”.
Ozil was recently on the news again, but not because of his silky touch and genius play-making. Following a disastrous World cup campaign with Germany in Moscow, Ozil announced his retirement from the national team, after a larger controversy surrounding his meeting with Turkish President Erdogan before the World Cup.
Ozil published a lengthy press release in English asking whether some quarters of the national team — particularly DFB President Reinhard Grindel — had victimized him because of his Turkish heritage.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose” Ozil said.
The Turkish-ness of Mesut Ozil
Ozil was born in Germany to an immigrant Turkish family. His parents are from a small mining town called Zonguldak in the black sea region of Turkey.
He once declared “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part.”[x]
Aside from his Turkish technique, Ozil is also known to swear in Turkish during soccer games – which probably shields him from the referees and opponents .
Why didn’t Ozil play for Turkey?
In 2006, when Ozil just started making name in Bundesliga at the tender age of 18, then playing for Schalke; another Turkish player had just begun his journey to stardom in Turkey. This was Arda Turan, then playing for Galatasaray as a 19 year old.
Milli Takim already had an established set of players and Arda Turan’s performance and visibility in Turkish league overshadowed whatever was known about Ozil.
Arda Turan and Ozil were playing in the same position; and the public expected the national team coach Terim to pick Arda instead of Ozil. Terim acknowledged that his scouts had in fact been watching Ozil and had shortlisted him for a call-up however Ozil’s father, who later became his agent, didn’t want his son to play for Turkish team.
Arda went on to make his name on the international scene by making an impressive appearance for Turkey at Euro 2008 tournament whereas Ozil had to wait until 2009 to be called to German senior team.
Both players announced their retirement from their respective national teams at the age of 30, following scandalous exits. Arda Turan announced his retirement after attacking a journalist who had criticised him for his underperformance, Ozil announced his, after being harshly critics by German football officials for his below-par performance during 2018 World Cup.
Ozil probably made the best decision to have chosen to play for Germany, not only for his career but also for the image of German-Turks.