The head of Germany’s football federation (DFB) criticised national team players Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan on Monday for having their picture taken with Turkey’s president.
Arsenal’s Ozil and Manchester City’s Gundogan posed for photos on Sunday in London with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both midfielders are of Turkish descent but were born in Gelsenkirchen in Germany and chose to represent the country of their birth internationally.
But DFB chief Reinhard Grindel said in a statement that it was “not a good thing” for them to take pictures with Erdogan, who has taken an increasingly authoritarian stance in recent years.
“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,” Grindel said. “Therefore, it is not a good thing that our internationals have let themselves be exploited for his election campaign stunt. It certainly hasn’t helped the DFB’s integration efforts.”
The statement comes one day before both Ozil and Gundogan are likely to be named to Germany’s preliminary squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Germany team coordinator Oliver Bierhoff also expressed concern over the photos and said he would speak with the players.
“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.”
Everton’s Cenk Tosun, a Turkey international, also took part in the photo shoot.