The German football association (DFB) have “emphatically rejected” allegations of racism from Mesut Ozil after the Arsenal star quit international football, but have conceded they could have done more to protect him.
The 2014 World Cup winner accused DFB of treating him with "racism and disrespect" on Sunday, revealing that he and his family have received hate mail, threatening phone calls and online abuse and said that sponsors have also distanced themselves from him.
This was all sparked by a photo taken of him and Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, both of whom are Germans of Turkish descent, with Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London in May. Everton's German-born Turkish striker Cenk Tosun also attended the meeting.
The picture caused a furore in Germany, with some pundits and supporters saying Gundogan and Ozil should be dropped from the World Cup squad, and criticism of Ozil, in particular, grew after Germany's failure to reach the knock-out stages in Russia.
An example of this anti-Ozil attitude came on Monday, when Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness told Germany's Bild newspaper that he was "glad this nightmare is over" and said Ozil "has been s*** for years". Hoeness, a powerful figure in German football, also accused him of "hiding himself and his poor performances behind this photo".
But the DFB have refuted the allegations put against them by Ozil, saying they “regret the departure of Mesut Ozil from the national team”.
The statement read: “We emphatically reject the DFB being linked to racism. The DFB has been very involved in integration work in Germany for many years.
“It is regrettable that Mesut Ozil felt that he had not been sufficiently protected as a target of racist slogans.
“The DFB stands for diversity, from the representatives at the top to the boundless, day-to-day dedication of people at the base.”
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