Ilkay Gundogan has offered his support to Mesut Ozil after his claims of racism in the German national football set-up.
Ozil announced last month that he would no longer play for Germany so long as he felt like a victim of “racism and disrespect” from the German Football Association.
The Arsenal midfielder was part of Germany’s failed World Cup squad this summer, with his participation in the tournament questioned by many after an image emerged of him posing with controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Gundogan, who also posed for the pictures, and who shares a Turkish heritage with Ozil, has backed his former teammate.
“Was the affair racially motivated? You’re telling me! Is it not racism when a German politician writes on Facebook: ‘The German national football team: 25 Germans and two goat f*****s?’” he asked Funke.
“That’s something you have to call racism. Nevertheless, that does not mean that all people in Germany are racists – not at all. Almost all my life I have had good experiences in Germany. I want to say that very clearly here.
“But there are people who have politically used the resulting photo for themselves. And in this context, the line to racism was partially crossed.
“At the 2014 World Cup, it was ‘Die Mannschaft’ everywhere with 23 very best buddies and now, after a disappointing 2018 World Cup, there is talk of fractured groupings, though they were largely the same players and characters. This is now exaggerated from the outside.
“In sporting terms, I think Mesut’s resignation is a pity. He did a lot for German football. It’s a loss for the team. Mesut has also done a lot for me personally. He was one of the reasons why I wanted to play for Germany.
“He has paved the way for me. So I would have wished that he would get a better, deserved goodbye. However, one has to say that it was Mesut’s decision to go that way – with all the consequences. I would have done it differently – because I’m different.”