Debates on Turkish-German football star Mesut Özil's sudden departure from the German national team due to racist acts harm Germany's reputation, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview that was published today.
"Özil's quitting from the German national team triggered the migration debates. The latest debates and the increasing number of racist attacks against migrants and Jews create a shameful situation for Germany," Maas said, speaking to the German Bild Daily.
Özil quit the national team last Sunday, citing racist propaganda he faced in Germany since meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two months ago. Özil accused far-right politicians and media for questioning his loyalty to Germany, and using his picture with Erdoğan "as an opportunity to express their previously hidden racist tendencies." Özil further said he no longer wanted to or could wear Germany's famous black-and-white jersey.
"I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," wrote the player, who was scapegoated for then-reigning world champion Germany's humiliating exit from the tournament in Russia.
"These debates damage the international reputation of Germany," Maas added, while stating that the developments also prove that the racism is on rise in Germany.
"The foreigners that live in our country should not feel under threat. In order to achieve this, we should all try a lot harder and be more welcoming," he further said.
Özil, 29, spent nine years on the national team, earned 92 caps and earned a World Cup win with Germany in 2014. He was attacked after the team was eliminated in the first round of this year's World Cup in Russia.