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Erdogan says treatment of Germany's Ozil racist and unacceptable

24 July 2018

Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given his support to Mesut Ozil and says the "racist attitude" shown towards the player is not acceptable.

His move has divided opinion in Germany but received warm applause in Turkey, whose government has long campaigned against what Ankara sees as rising Islamophobia in Europe.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ozalan from the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said: "I congratulate Mesut Ozil".

"But for me, it's only important [if] Mesut Ozil can help the national team or not, and I have this feeling in the last one and a half year, he never played on this level how we played before, and now it's time for changes". Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, capped 81 times by England, laconically tweeted his support for the Arsenal player, with the word "Respect" quoting a tweet of Ozil's statement.

"I kiss him on his eyes", Erdogan said, using a Turkish term of affection for a loved one or friend.

And though Matthaus, a World Cup victor with Germany in 1990, said the media coverage around the photograph played its part in Ozil's decision, he believes Germany would be better served going forward without the Arsenal playmaker's services.

He added that Ozil's critics "could not stomach" the photograph of the soccer star and Erdogan that prompted criticism ahead of the World Cup.

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"How will you explain this understanding which will not accept me taking photographs with Turkish-origin Mesut, Ilkay and Cenk Tosun in London?"

The lawmaker invited Ozil to play for the Turkish team.

"We are against racism, religious discrimination and we condemn those who act in this way", mayor Mustafa Semerci said, according to DHA news agency.

While not wanting to make public comment on some of Ozil's statements from his Twitter post, the governing body said it "emphatically" rejected any suggestions of racism within the organisation.

"Preseason work", he wrote simply above a picture of himself in sprint training, without making any reference to the uproar.

Erdogan says treatment of Germany's Ozil racist and unacceptable