The presidential board of the German FA (DFB) addressed Mesut Özil’s announcement during a teleconference today. Özil won 92 caps for the Germany national team and helped define a very successful era, both on and indeed off the pitch. Mesut Özil played a key role in Germany lifting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and so the DFB is and always will be incredibly grateful for his outstanding performances in Germany colours.
Diversity is a strength – not only in football – and that is why our integration efforts have a fundamental importance at every level. From the lower leagues all the way to the senior national teams, many footballers with migrant backgrounds are part of the DFB. We play and live together with our various roots, religions and cultures. What must connect us all within that, both on and off the pitch, is respecting the human rights firmly established in our constitution and standing up for the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as well as respect, tolerance and fair play. A commitment to these core values is a prerequisite for every person who plays football for Germany.
Therefore, the pictures with Turkish president Erdogan raised questions for many people in Germany. We self-critically acknowledge that the DFB played a part in that when dealing with this issue. We also regret that Mesut Özil – unlike Jerome Boateng – feels as if he wasn’t given enough protection when made the target of racist slogans. However, it was important for Mesut Özil, like Ilkay Gündogan before him, to provide answers for this photo, regardless of the way the World Cup in Russia went. At the DFB, we win and lose together, all of us, as a team.
The DFB would have been happy for Mesut Özil to continue being part of this team on that common basis, but he has chosen otherwise. The DFB respects that, and for us as an association that wishes to be respectful to a commendable Germany international, we wish to make no public comment in regard to some statements that for us are incomprehensible in their tone and message.
For the DFB to have been associated with racism is something we emphatically reject, with regard to our ambassadors, staff members, our clubs and the work of millions of volunteers at grassroots level. The DFB has been very active with its integration efforts in Germany for many years, including the introduction of the Integration Award, creating the “1:0 für ein Willkommen” (“1-0 to open arms”) campaign and integrating tens of thousands of refugees into its footballing family. Over the past 15 years, the DFB has established its integration efforts on many levels, right through to the amateur leagues. We stand for diversity – from the representatives at the very top to the countless people working at grassroots level each and every day.
The DFB regrets Mesut Özil’s decision to step down from the national team. But it does not affect the association’s determination to continue its successful work on integration.