German soccer president regrets leaving Ozil to face racist attacks

Mesut-Ozil

Mesut Ozil during a training session with the German team at the 2018 soccer World Cup. (Michael Probst/AP)

BERLIN — The president of Germany’s football federation wishes he had given Mesut Ozil more support against racist attacks following the controversy over the player’s photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

DFB president Reinhard Grindel, who previously conceded making mistakes in handling the controversy, told Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag that he had not sought to make Ozil the scapegoat for Germany’s disappointing first-round exit from the World Cup.

"In view of the racist attacks, I should have positioned myself more clearly in one or two areas and backed Mesut Ozil," Grindel said. "I should have found clear words. Such attacks are totally unacceptable. I’m sorry that Mesut Ozil felt abandoned by the DFB."

Ozil retired from Germany’s national team last month when he defended his pre-World Cup meeting with Erdogan and was scathing of Grindel, the DFB, fans and media for what he said was racism in their treatment of people with Turkish roots.

"In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," the Arsenal midfielder said at the time.

Grindel on Sunday rejected Ozil’s accusation that he had made him responsible for the team’s failure in Russia, saying it was "not right."

"For me, it is always clear that we win together and we lose together. To make one player responsible for the exit would be absurd," Grindel said.

Grindel also had criticism for team manager Oliver Bierhoff, saying there was too great a distance between the team and its management in Russia, and also suggested the slogan for the team, "Die Mannschaft" (The Team), was "very contrived."

The DFB president ruled out his own resignation, saying he had the league body’s full support.

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