Germany star Mesut Ozil has confirmed he is retiring from international football with immediate effect.
The 29-year-old Arsenal midfielder posted a three-part message on social media covering his controversial meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the backlash and racism he has felt, his feelings toward the DFB and finally his future with the German national team.
"I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil wrote in the final installment of the statement.
He finished his statement by saying: “It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t. This decision has been extremely difficult to make because I have always given everything for my teammates, the coaching staff and the good people of Germany. But when high-ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough. That is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever be accepted.”
III / III pic.twitter.com/c8aTzYOhWU— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
The controversy began when Ozil and international team-mate Ilkay Gundogan were pictured at the London Embassy in May alongside Erdogan, who was re-elected days later despite protests over his government's alleged systematic arrest of journalists, civil rights activists and political opponents.
The two midfielders, who were both born in Gelsenkirchen but share Turkish heritage, were subsequently booed by Germany fans in pre-World Cup friendlies, with the uproar cited as a reason for the nation's poor performance in Russia.
Gundogan later insisted there was no political motivation behind the meeting and Ozil, having remained quiet on the issue until now, has similarly defended his actions.
The past couple of weeks have given me time to reflect, and time to think over the events of the last few months. Consequently, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about what has happened. pic.twitter.com/WpWrlHxx74— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
"I'm aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions," he wrote in a statement.
"For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country.
"Although the German media have portrayed something different, the truth is that not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors, who I know would be proud of where I am today."
The former Real Madrid man went on to note that Queen Elizabeth II and British prime minister Theresa May had likewise met with Erdogan, adding: "Whether it had been the Turkish or the German President, my actions would've been no different.
"I get that this may be difficult to understand, as in most cases the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case, it is different.
"Whatever the outcome would've been in the previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture."
In his second statement, Ozil accused the German media of attempting to turn the country against him since the controversial meeting.
II / III pic.twitter.com/Jwqv76jkmd— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
That meeting led German Football Association (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel to ask for an explanation. National team manager Oliver Bierhoff also suggested Ozil should have been omitted from the squad that ultimately failed to get out of the group stage at the World Cup, prompting a furious response from the midfielder, who feels he has been made a scapegoat.
"If a newspaper or pundit finds fault in a game I play in, then I can accept this – I'm not a perfect footballer and this often motivates me to work and train harder," Ozil wrote.
"But what I can't accept are German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad."
Targeting unnamed newspapers for using his ancestry "as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause", Ozil also claimed his treatment was unfair given there was little controversy about former Germany star Lothar Matthaus's recent meeting with Russia president Vladimir Putin.
"This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me," he continued.
"What I also find disappointing are the double standards that the media has. Lothar Matthaus met with another world leader a few days back, and received almost no criticism.
"Despite his role with the DFB, they have not asked him to publicly explain his actions and he continues to represent the players of Germany without any reprimand.
"If the media felt that I should have been left out of the World Cup squad, then surely he should be stripped of his honorary captaincy? Does my Turkish heritage make me a more worthy target?"
Ozil expanded on his criticism of the DFB by questioning why they stood by a controversial sponsor and not him.
"I was renounced by another partner," Ozil said. "As they are also a sponsor of the DFB, I was asked to take part in promotional videos for the World Cup.
"Yet after my picture with president Erdogan, they took me out of the campaigns and cancelled all promotional activities that were scheduled. For them, it was no longer good to be seen with me and called the situation 'crisis management'.
"This is all ironic because a German Ministry declared their products have illegal and unauthorised software devices in them, which puts customers at risk. Hundreds of thousands of their products are getting recalled.
"Whilst I was being criticised and asked to justify my actions by the DFB, there was no such official and public explanation demanded of the DFB sponsor. Why? Am I right in thinking this is worse than a picture with the president of my family's country? What does the DFB have to say about all this?"