The German Press Makes Fun of Mesut Ozil For Singing Turkey’s National Anthem
The Turkish-German footballer’s recent move to a Turkish club may have made Ozil happy, but Germany is still not ready to let go.
It wasn’t long before Mesut Ozil, the German-Turkish footballer, was back making headlines in the German again.
The 32-year-old midfielder walked away from Germany’s national football team in 2018, citing racism both from within the team and broader German society. It was one of the most stinging critiques of Germany’s failure to learn how to integrate itself with the country’s Turkish population.
Now, the German press has a different gripe with Ozil: why he’s singing the Turkish national anthem at his new team in Turkey.
Last month Ozil made the widely anticipated move from Arsenal, after seven and a half years, to the Turkish football club, Fenerbahce, in Istanbul.
However, some quarters of the German press are now frustrated that Ozil was caught slipping by singing Turkey’s national anthem before the start of a game.
Turkey’s national anthem is always sung in Turkey before most sporting games, much like it’s sung in the US.
However, some in the German press drew attention to it because they say Ozil never sang Germany’s national anthem. For his part, the midfielder has in the past said that while Germany’s national anthem was being played, he would make a small prayer.
That explanation wasn’t good enough for Germany’s press.
While Ozil hasn’t commented on Germany’s national anthem, the nationalistic tone of the lyrics has been a sticking point that has made some uncomfortable.
The German politician, Bodo Ramelow, even said that when he heard Germany’s national anthem, he couldn’t “get the image of the Nazi rallies from 1933 to 1945” out of his head.
Ramelow’s comments sparked a broader debate about the country’s national anthem and whether it needed reform. Contrast that with Ozil’s treatment in which the German press demanded he proves his loyalty to the country he was born in.
Ozil’s fall from grace with the German press stems mainly from a climate in the country that has seen Germany’s far-right become more emboldened in the form of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is now the country’s largest opposition party.
At one point, Ozil was hailed as the embodiment of integration in Germany, even receiving an award from Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The country once hailed the footballing team’s diversity as the embodiment of the new Germany overcoming the ghosts of its past. A multicultural melting pot where a hyphenated identity was a sign that being German and Turkish wasn’t a contradiction.
As Ozil has since learned, he was walking on thin ice. Those that vaunted the footballer as a model were also projecting what they thought integration ought to be.
For German policymakers, Ozil was meant to be an example for the country’s around 3.5 million-strong Turkish-German community.
But that all changed when Ozil and another Turkish-German footballer Ilkay Gundogan met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a photo-op that saw the two footballers gift their t-shirts.
Lothar Matthaus, in a statement at the time, said that he was paying respect to the highest authority of his family’s country. German politicians and the press viewed the move as an act of betrayal.
When Germany’s legendary footballer Lothar Matthaus met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, his loyalty to the country wasn’t questioned. For those like Ozil, a complex hybrid of German and Turkish upbringing, that double standard and constant berating to be someone else’s ideal and model migrant was too much.
In particular, the children of migrant families who achieve notable success have the uneasy task of balancing the prejudices of their adopted society and cultural, fraternal and linguistic links to their parents’ land.