“Whenever we win, I am German, when we lose, I am an immigrant” These were the words of Mesut Ozil in the aftermath of the criticism of his bad performance during the 2018 world cup in Russia.
As an avid soccer fan, and as someone who has watched Mesut Ozil throughout his career, I will attest that indeed Ozil’s performance was horrid, however, I will say the same for the whole German team. The team lacked passion and the “play until the final second” mentality of the German national team we usually see, however singling out Ozil did not come as surprise.
Right around the beginning of this years’ World Cup, Romelu Lukaku the Belgian striker of Congolese roots authored an article where he expresses the same grievances as Ozil. Of course, these are two are not the only examples.
With the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe this type of treatment by Europeans is expected. What is profound in the case of Ozil is the unprecedented attack he received by high ranking German soccer officials such national Germany team coach Oliver Bierfhoff and the head of the German football federation.
Following these attacks, Ozil quit the national team and even then received criticism as he was called a coward by doing so. For a soccer player, representing their country is the greatest honor he or she can receive during their playing career, and for a world champion such as Mesut Ozil who has represented Germany 97 times to quit at the age of 29 was not an easy decision. That is not cowardice; that was the bravest thing he could have done.
Despite the current political climate in the United States of America and the rise of xenophobia, one thing that is remarkable for this nation is that most people are accepting of people from different backgrounds and they see them as Americans. At the same time, these immigrants who feel American are also able to embrace their ethnic and or religious routes without feeling as someone is after them.
The United States Men’s soccer team is full of players from various ethnicities, Christian Public is of Croatian descent, Timothy Weah is the son of Liberian soccer legend George Weah, however first and foremost these kids are American, whether the men’s U.S. team wins or loses. No one scapegoats them.
Europeans must look to that example and learn to accept diversity during the good and the bad times. Diversity makes a nation stronger. France, a prime example, the young French soccer team which just won the World Cup in Russia is made up from mostly first-generation immigrants who feel French but at the same time want to embrace their roots however some don’t due to the European mentality of the “other”
Only together we are stronger, is time the Europeans embrace their diversity and yes Mesut Ozil might respect and embrace his Turkish and Islamic roots, but at the same time he is as German as Toni Kross.