Joachim Low says Germany underestimated the impact of Mesut Ozil’s photo with Recep Tayyip Erdogan but has rejected the Arsenal star’s accusations of racism and discrimination.
Ozil and his Germany team-mate Ilkay Gundogan met the controversial Turkey president prior to the World Cup, where Low’s side exited at the group stage after a terrible title defence.
Both players – who are of Turkish descent – were included in the squad, with Manchester City midfielder Gundogan apologising for the Erdogan photo after a backlash.
Ozil, however, did not comment on the row until after the World Cup, when he announced his immediate retirement from international football and hit out at the German Football Federation (DFB) over its handling of the incident.
DFB president Reinhard Grindel particularly drew Ozil’s ire, the playmaker accusing him of discrimination and “incompetence”, writing: “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”
“Mesut Ozil has not called me until today,” Low told reporters. “Mesut Ozil has clearly overstated his allegations of racism.
“I think we underestimated the situation with the photos, I too underestimated. I thought, when the two met [Germany president Frank-Walter] Steinmeier, that we could concentrate on the World Cup. This theme has also cost strength. For me it was clear that I selected Mesut Ozil for sporting reasons.
“Why I have not said something on this incident so far: It was like that his advisor called me late in the afternoon on Sunday. He has informed me that Mesut will publish the third part of his statement.
“The player himself did not call me. In the past, there have always been good discussions with players in such cases. He has chosen this path, I have to accept that.
“There never was a kind of racism. Throughout the time I was at the DFB, there has never been racist comments in our team. Mesut and Ilkay have always identified with the values of the national team.”
Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff also rejected Ozil’s claims.
“I spent nine wonderful years with Mesut in the national team,” Bierhoff said. “He is just a great footballer and has helped us to have this success and become world champion. But I clearly reject the racism accusation.”
Although Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller are among those to have sided with the DFB over the Ozil row, Germany defender Antonio Rudiger sympathised with his former team-mate.
“What I don’t understand in this whole discussion is why some people are discussing whether there is racism within the national team,” Rudiger told Deutsche Presse-Agentur. “Mesut himself never said that in one sentence! I think it’s extremely sad how this has developed.”