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>> A German World Cup soccer star has quit that country's team, saying racism from both the sporting elite and German society drove him out. Mesut Ozil is of Turkish heritage, and was a top player for Germany. He was vital to their World Cup win in 2014, and has been voted Player of the Year five times.
But this May photo op with Turkey's president Tayyip Erdogan was the tipping point. In a four page letter, Ozil says he always faced adversity growing up in Germany. But the photo released a surge of hate mail, criticism in the press, and even racially slanted profanity from a mainstream politician.
He also says he was used as a scapegoat for Germany's humiliating World Cup defeat last month, including by the head of the German Football Association. I am a German when we win, he wrote, but I am an immigrant when we lose. The far right has surged in Germany in recent years, as it grapples with Europe's immigration crisis.
Ozil's case may not be totally clear cut, though. He says the photo with Erdogan was not a political statement, just a sign of respect to a world leader. But Turkey's president has had a long tumultuous relationship with Germany and the wider EU. Erdogan's been accused of reversing progress on human rights, and taking a heavy-handed approach in crackdowns.
An editorial by a leading German newspaper, Bild, says Ozil is playing a, quote, victim role that has nothing to do with reality. Erdogan's justice minister tweeted that Ozil's departure was a goal against fascism.