The Arsenal and Manchester City midfielders have been accused of going against Germany’s football values by meeting Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The German Football Association (DFB) has criticised Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan for appearing in what it describes as an “election campaign stunt” by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Germany internationals were pictured greeting Erdogan at Turkey’s London embassy, along with Everton and Turkey striker Cenk Tosun, as the politician arrived in England ahead of a meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May.
Arsenal star Ozil and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan handed over signed shirts, before a picture of the three players together was uploaded via Ozil’s official Instagram page.
The DFB has since issued a statement in which it has accused Ozil and Gundogan, who are both of Turkish descent, of going against its football values by taking part in the meeting.
DFB president Reinhard Grindel said: “The DFB of course respects the special situation for our players with migrant backgrounds, but football and the DFB stands for values that Mr. Erdogan does not sufficiently respect.
“Therefore, it is not a good thing that our internationals have let themselves be misused for his election campaign stunt. It certainly hasn’t helped the DFB’s integration efforts.”
DFB team coordinator Oliver Bierhoff added: “I still have absolutely no doubts about Mesut and Ilkay’s commitment to playing for the Germany national team and how much they identify with our values. They were unaware of the symbolism of these pictures, but we cannot endorse it, and we will discuss the matter with the players.”
Gundogan insists that he and Ozil did not intend to make a political statement, saying: “It was not our intention to make a political statement with this image, let alone an election campaign. As German national players, we confess to the values of the DFB and are aware of our responsibility.
“Football is our life, not politics.”
The UK has been criticised for hosting Erdogan during what is a high-stakes election campaign.
There has been pressure from human rights campaigners and exiled Turkish citizens to denounce the government’s alleged systematic arrests of journalists, civil rights activists and opposition politicians.