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Mesut Ozil has released a remarkable 2,320-word statement confirming his retirement from international football and slamming the "racism and disrespect" he has suffered. The Arsenal star was criticised for meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup, and then slammed for his performances in Russia as Germany went out in the group stages.

The 29-year-old released the statement in three separate tweets across the day on Sunday, and said that he couldn't bring himself to wear the Germany shirt any more. The past couple of weeks have given me time to reect, and time to think over the events of the last few months. Consequently, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about what has happened.

Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots rmly based in Turkey. I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish. During my childhood, my mother taught me to always be respectful and to never forget where I came from, and these are still values that I think about to this day.

In May, I met President Erdogan in London, during a charitable and educational event. We rst met in 2010 after he and Angela Merkel watched the Germany vs. Turkey match together in Berlin. Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe. I'm aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.
Turkish president picture puts Mesut Ozil under pressure
As I said, my mother has never let me lose sight of my ancestry, heritage and family traditions. For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest ofce of my family’s country. My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies. In fact, we spoke about the same topic that we do every time we have met - football - as he too was a player in his youth.

Although the German media have portrayed something different, the truth is that not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors, who I know would be proud of where I am today. For me, it didn't matter who was President, it mattered that it was the President. Having respect for political ofce is a view that I'm sure both the Queen and Prime Minister Theresa May share when they too hosted Erdogan in London. Whether it had been the Turkish or the German President, my actions would’ve been no different.

I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case, it is different. Whatever the outcome would've been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture. I know that I am a footballer who has played in arguably the three toughest leagues in the world. I've been fortunate to receive great support from my teammates and coaching staff whilst playing in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League. And in addition, throughout my career, I've learnt to deal with the media.

A lot of people talk about my performances - many applaud and many criticise. If a newspaper or pundit finds fault in a game I play in, then I can accept this - I'm not a perfect footballer and this often motivates me to work and train harder. But what I can’t accept, are German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad.

Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause. Why else did they use pictures and headlines with my name as a direct explanation for defeat in Russia?

They didn‘t criticise my performances. They didn‘t criticise the team‘s performances, they just criticised my Turkish ancestry and respect for my upbringing. This crosses a personal line that should never be crossed, as newspapers try to turn the nation of Germany against me.

What I also nd disappointing are the double standards that the media has. Lothar Matthaus (an honorary German national team captain) met with another world leader a few days back, and received almost no media criticism. Despite his role with the DFB (German national team), they have not asked him to publicly explain his actions and he continues to represent the players of Germany without any reprimand. If the media felt that I should have been left of the World Cup squad, then surely he should be stripped of his honorary captaincy? Does my Turkish heritage make me a more worthy target?

I've always thought that a 'partnership' infers support, both in the good times and also during tougher situations. Recently, I planned to visit my former school Berger-Feld in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, along with two of my charitable partners. I funded a project for one year where immigrant children, children from poor families and any other children can play football together and learn social rules for life.
Mesut Özil2

However, days before we were scheduled to go, I was abandoned by my so-called 'partners', who no longer wanted to work with me at this time. To add to this, the school told my management that they no longer wanted me to be there at this time, as they 'feared the media" due to my picture with President Erdogan, especially with the “right-wing party in Gelsenkirchen on the rise". In all honesty, this really hurt. Despite being a student of theirs back when l was younger. I was made to feel unwanted and unworthy of their time.

In addition to this I was renounced by another partner. As they are also a sponsor of the DFB, l was asked to take part in promotional videos for the World Cup. Yet after my picture with President Erdogan they took me out of the campaigns and cancelled all promotional activities that were scheduled. For them it was no longer good to be seen with me and called the situation ‘crisis management'.

This is all ironic because a German Ministry declared their products have illegal and unauthorized software devices in them, which puts customers at risk. Hundreds of thousands of their products are getting recalled. Whilst I was being criticised and asked to justify my actions by the DFB, there was no such ofcial and public explanation demanded of the DFB sponsor. Why? Am i right in thinking this is worse than a picture with the President of my family‘s country? What does the OPE have to say about all this?

As I said before, ‘partners' should stick with you in all situations. Adidas, Beats and Big Shoe have been extremely loyal and amazing to work with in this time. They rise above the nonsense created by the German press and media, and we carry out our projects in a professional manner that I really enjoy being part of.

During the World Cup, I worked with Big Shoe and helped get 23 young children life-changing surgeries in Russia, which I have also done previously in Brazil and Africa. This for me is the most important thing that I do as a football player, yet the newspapers nd no space to raise awareness about this sort of thing. For them, me being booed or taking a picture with a President is more signicant then helping children get surgeries worldwide. They too have a platform to raise awareness and funds, but choose not to do so.

Arguably the issue that has frustrated me the most over the past couple of months has been the mistreatment from the DFB, and in particular the OPE President Reinhard Grindel. After my picture with President Erdogan l was asked by Joachim Low to cut short my holiday and go to Berlin and give a joint statement to end all the talk and set the record straight.

Whilst I attempted to explain to Grindel my heritage, ancestry and therefore reasoning behind the photo, he was far more interested in speaking about his own political views and belittling my opinion. Whilst his actions were patronising, we came to agree that the best thing to do was to concentrate on football and the upcoming World Cup. This is why l did not attend the OPE media day during the World Cup preparations. I knew journalists discussing politics and not football would just attack me, even though the whole issue was deemed to be over by Oliver Bierhoff in a TV interview he did before the Saudi Arabia game in Leverkusen.

During this time, I also met with the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Unlike Grindel, President Steinmeier was professional and actually was interested in what I had to say about my family, my heritage and my decisions. I remember that the meeting was only between myself, Ilkay and President Steinmeier, with Grindel being upset that he wasn't allowed inside to boost his own political agenda. I agreed with President Steinmeier that we would release a joint statement about the matter, in another attempt to move toward and focus on football. But Grindel was upset that it wasn't his team releasing the first statement, annoyed that Steinmeier‘s press ofce had to take lead on this matter.

Since the end of the World Cup, Grindel has come under much pressure regarding his decisions before the tournament started, and rightly so. Recently, he has publicly said I should once again explain my actions and puts me at fault for the poor team results in Russia, despite telling me it was over in Berlin. I am speaking now not for Grindel, but because I want to. I will no longer stand for being a scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly. I know that he wanted me out the team after the picture, and publicised his view on Twitter without any thinking or consultation, but Joachim Low and Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and backed me.

In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose. This is because despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014, I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being 'different'. I received the 'Bambi Award' in 2010 as an example of successful integration to German society, I received a 'Silver Laurel Leaf' in 2014 from the Federal Republic of Germany, and I was a ’German Football Ambassador’ in 2015. But clearly, I am not German.. .?

Are there criteria for being fully German that I do not t? My friend Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish? Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I'm a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue. By being referred to as German-Turkish, it is already distinguishing people who have family from more than one country. I was born and educated in Germany, so why don't people accept that I am German?

Grindel's opinions can be found elsewhere too. I was called by Bernd Holzhauer (a German politician) a “goat-f***er” because of my picture with President Erdogan and my Turkish background. Furthermore, Werner Steer (Chief of German Theatre) told me to "piss off to Anatolia", a place in Turkey where many immigrants are based.

As I have said before, criticising and abusing me because of family ancestry is a disgraceful line to cross, and using discrimination as a tool for political propaganda is something that should immediately result In the resignation of those disrespectful individuals. These people have used my picture with President Erdogan as an opportunity to express their previously hidden racist tendencies, and this is dangerous for society.

They are no better than the German fan who told me after the game against Sweden "Ozil, verpiss Dich Du scheiss TiirkensauJ’iirkenschwein hau ab' or in English "Ozil, f**k off you Turkish s**t, p*** off you Turkish pig!‘
skynews mesut ozil president erdogan 4369078
I don't want to even discuss the hate mail, threatening phone calls and comments on social media that my family and I have received. They all represent a Germany of the past, a Germany not open to new cultures, and a Germany that I am not proud of. I am condent that many proud Germans who embrace an open society would agree with me.

To you, Reinhard Grindel, I am disappointed but not surprised by your actions. In 2004 whilst you were a German member of Parliament, you claimed that “multiculturalism is in reality a myth [and] a lifelong lie” whilst you voted against legislation for dual-nationalities and punishments for bribery, as well as saying that Islamic culture has become too ingrained in many German cities. This is unforgivable and unforgettable.

The treatment l have received from the OPE and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt. I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten. People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has many players from dual-heritage families. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reect the players they supposedly represent.

It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events. I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect. I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don‘t. This decision has been extremely difcult to make because I have always given everything for my teammates, the coaching staff and the good people of Germany. But when high-ranking DFB ofcials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selshly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough. That is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it.

Racism should never, ever be accepted.

Mesut Ozil

Cristiano Ronaldo says he is "grateful for the opportunity" given to him by Juventus, as players of his age "usually go to Qatar or China". The 33-year-old Portugal forward has joined the Italian champions for £99.2m after nine years at Real Madrid. "To come to this club at this stage of my career, I am very happy," he said at his presentation in Turin.

Ronaldo also said he hopes to be the "lucky star" as the Italian side attempt to win the Champions League. He added he had not received any other offers.
Ronaldo scored a club record 450 goals for Real - winning four Champions Leagues and La Liga twice - having joined from Manchester United in 2009. A five-time Ballon d'Or winner - including last year - he led Portugal to victory at the 2016 European Championship.

"I want to win," he said. "I want to be the best. Who knows, maybe I will be awarded the Ballon d'Or again but things will happen naturally. "It was difficult to win it in Manchester and Real Madrid, but maybe here? We will see." Ronaldo said there were "many important things" that contributed to his decision. "I am well - physically, mentally and emotionally," he said. "That is why I am so proud of being here and the way I have come here.

"I am different from all the other players who think that their career is over at my age, but I want to show the others that I am different. It is very emotional for me at the club now because I am not 23, I am 33. "It gives me so much momentum for the future."

Taking Juventus to an 'even higher level'
Juventus are Italy's most successful club, having won Serie A 34 times - including the last seven in a row - and the Coppa Italia on 13 occasions. However, they have not won the Champions League since 1996, losing on their past five appearances in the final. Ronaldo said: "I do know that the Champions League is a trophy every club would like to win. This is an option. We are going to fight not only for the Champions League but for the Serie A title.

"We know competition will be harsh but we must stay concentrated. I hope I can help Juventus win it. I hope I can be the lucky star of this club but we will see what happens. "Juventus gave me a wonderful opportunity. I'm so grateful. They gave value to my football style so it's a step forward as I see it. Juventus can have many successes. They have won domestic cups and titles and reached Champions League finals.

"I am so proud they were interested in me. I hope I can take Juventus to an even higher level."

 Cristiano Ronaldo's injury-time penalty put holders Real Madrid through to the Champions League semi-finals after holding off a stunning Juventus comeback.Ronaldo's coolly taken 97th-minute penalty into the top corner came after Medhi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez in the box. Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in what might be his last Champions League appearance, was sent off by English referee Michael Oliver after awarding the spot-kick, for foul and abusive language.

Real, Champions League winners in three of the past four seasons, came into the second leg leading 3-0, helped by Ronaldo's stunning bicycle kick. But the Serie A leaders got off to a perfect start when Mario Mandzukic headed in from Sami Khedira's cross after just two minutes and Mandzukic got a second before half-time.
Blaise Matuidi pounced to capitalise on Keylor Navas' fumble to level the tie on aggregate before the dramatic ending.
Real join Liverpool, Roma and Bayern Munich in the last-four draw, which takes place in Nyon on Friday at 12:00 BST.
Football Daily podcast: ‘Lucky’ Real Madrid and ‘disgraceful’ Buffon
Bedlam at the Bernabeu - reaction to Real's dramatic win
Relive how it happened
Chaotic 10 minutes in Madrid
The game looked to be heading for extra time before a chaotic final few minutes saw even the calmest of players lose control.
90th minute: Benatia push on Vazquez is adjudged to be a foul and Oliver points to the spot. Benatia booked and furious Juve players surround the referee,
incensed at the decision.
93rd minute: Buffon remonstrates too vociferously, screaming and pointing his finger in the direction of Oliver and is shown a red card.
96th minute: Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain is brought off and replaced by former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
97th minute: Ronaldo despatches the penalty into the top right-hand corner.
98th minute: Ronaldo is booked for taking off his shirt while celebrating in front of the home supporters.
99th minute: Referee blows for full-time.
Ronaldo steps up to the mark
Real have endured a poor season so far in La Liga, sitting fourth in the table and 15 points adrift of runaway leaders Barca, who capitulated on Tuesday night to go out of the Champions League.
The competition is Real's only hope of a major trophy this season, but they only just managed to sneak through to the last four for the eighth consecutive season.
Ronaldo, the Ballon d'Or holder, proved himself to be the best once again, stepping up under the most intense pressure to send his team through.
The penalty extended his incredible goalscoring form this campaign:
Now netted in 11 games in a row for Real
Takes his tally to 27 in his past 14 games for club and country
41 strikes overall in 38 games this season
120th goal in 150 Champions League appearances.
Not the send-off Buffon was hoping for
Legendary goalkeeper Buffon ended the night, and possibly his European career, in controversial fashion.
It drew parallels with Real boss Zinedine Zidane when his France playing career ended with a sending off at the 2006 World Cup final for a headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi.
Italy's most-capped international Buffon, who is much respected throughout the game, let his emotions overcome him at the end and was dismissed on his 650th appearance for Juve.
Buffon had announced in October that this would be his last Champions League campaign unless his side won the final, after which he had intended to play in the Club World Cup.
Buffon had been having a brilliant game, saving low from Welshman Gareth Bale and reacting sharply to keep out efforts from Isco and Ronaldo.
But he will not receive the dream send-off, missing out on claiming the only major trophy which has evaded him in his career.
Super Mario - the stats
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 10 Champions League goals against Juventus - the most by one player against a one opponent in the competition.
Juventus have won more away games against Real Madrid than any other side in all European competition [three].
Gianluigi Buffon's first Champions League red card was Juventus' sixth in the competition against Real Madrid - more than any team has had against another opponent in the competition.
Mario Mandzukic's first goal after 76 seconds was the fastest that Real Madrid have ever conceded in a Champions League home game.
Mandzukic also became the first player to score a first-half double as an opposition player in a Champions League match at the Bernabeu.
The Italian side had more shots on target in the opening 15 minutes of play [three] than they did in the entire first leg (2).
BBC

Paris St-Germain continued their domestic dominance by winning the French League Cup for the fifth successive time with a comfortable victory against Monaco.

PSG took an eighth-minute lead through Edinson Cavani's penalty, Angel di Maria firing in a second on 21 minutes.

Monaco skipper Radamel Falcao saw a header ruled out by the video assistant referee (VAR) just before half-time.

PSG sealed victory when Uruguay striker Cavani drilled in a late third.

The Qatari-owned club have now won 11 of the 13 major domestic trophies on offer in the past five seasons and remain on course for their third treble in four seasons.

Unai Emery's side are 17 points clear of second-placed Monaco in the league, while they are tied at 1-1 with Caen after the first leg of their French Cup semi-final.

Cavani converted a penalty given for a foul on former Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe, although there was a three-minute delay amid confusion when referee Clement Turpin went to the VAR before confirming the decision.

Mbappe's stunning pass set up Di Maria for the second, splitting the Monaco defence with a ball from inside his own half, allowing the Argentine to fire under a weak attempted block from keeper Danijel Subasic.

Monaco thought they had a lifeline when Falcao bravely beat PSG keeper Kevin Trapp to a right-wing cross to head in.

However, the referee decided he needed VAR help again and, after another two-minute wait, the effort was ruled out for a tight offside call.

Monaco continued to improve after the break, coming closest to halving the deficit when former Manchester City youngster Rony Lopes clipped the crossbar.

Despite that chance, PSG were always in control and never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead and Cavani sealed the win in the 85th minute.

Source BBC

Zinedine Zidane has sensationally resigned as Real Madrid head coach less than a week after leading the club to their third successive European Cup triumph.    The 45-year-old announced his departure in a surprise press conference at Real Madrid's training ground on Thursday morning.

Zidane leaves Real Madrid as one of the club's most successful managers having won three Champions Leagues, two Fifa Club World Cups and one La Liga title.  "I've taken the decision to not continue next year as Real Madrid coach," Zidane told reporters. "This is the right moment for everyone, it might seem a bit strange, but it had to be done for the good of everyone, the players, the club, and myself. This team must keep winning, and it needs a change after three years, another voice, another method of working."

"I love this club a lot, the president, who gave me everything – to play first at this great club. I’ll always be thankful. Today I need to change, for me, for everyone, for this I’ve taken the decision," Zidane added. "I wanted him to stay forever and I wanted to convince him to stay. But I know it was his final decision," said Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was present alongside Zidane.

"The only thing I want to say is 'hasta pronto' because I know he will return, maybe after a rest," he added. On Saturday he became the only manager in the Champions League era to win the trophy for three straight years with the same club. However Real Madrid endured a disastrous league campaign last season, finishing 17 points adrift of eventual winners Barcelona. Zidane said he would be taking a break from football after leaving Real Madrid and would not be interested in taking a new role: "I'm not going to coach next season. I'm not looking for another team.”

In February the Frenchman admitted he would consider quitting the club if he felt "there is nothing more to give". However after masterminding Real Madrid's victory over Liverpool in Kiev, Zidane gave no indication that he was considering his future at the Bernabeu. "This is a legendary club. This is a club that has won 13 European Cups so I'm happy to be part of this history," he said.

He added: "We are going to think about what we achieved, enjoy the moment first. This is the most important thing now." The Frenchman has in the past been linked with the manager's job at Chelsea, although Antonio Conte remains in charge for now with Maurizio Sarri tipped to replace him. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been installed as the early favourite to succeed Zidane.
Source: The Telegraph

Substitute Lionel Messi scored a sublime 89th-minute equaliser as leaders Barcelona came from 2-0 down to preserve their unbeaten La Liga record. Sevilla looked set to inflict a first league defeat on Barca for 11 months after goals by Franco Vazquez and Luis Muriel.

Luis Suarez pulled a goal back from close range in the 88th minute before Messi equalised moments later.

Barca's leading scorer curled home his 26th league goal from outside the area.

Messi had missed both of Argentina's friendlies during the international break because of a hamstring injury and was left out of the starting line-up for this game.

Barcelona are 12 points clear at the top of the table although Atletico Madrid will cut the gap to nine if they beat Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday (19:45 BST).

Sevilla, who are sixth in the table, wasted a string of chances to seal victory when 2-0 up.

They have not beaten Barcelona since October 2015 although they will get another chance to overcome Ernesto Valverde's side when the teams meet in the Copa del Rey final on 21 April.

The teams could also still meet in the Champions League.

Barcelona are chasing a European and domestic treble and host Roma in the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, while Sevilla entertain Bayern Munich the day before.

 

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund clash on Saturday for the German Super Cup in a rematch of their Champions League final, with Dortmund denying they want revenge. Bayern's 2-1 win over Dortmund at London's Wembley in May meant Munich became the first German team to win the treble of European, league and cup titles, but Borussia are viewing the Super Cup showdown as a yardstick, rather than Wembley payback.

 "This is not revenge for Wembley," said Borussia's Germany defender Mats Hummels ahead of the game in Dortmund

Borussia may have finished second, and fully 25 points, behind Bayern in last season's Bundesliga, but Hummels added: "For us, it is a good test to know where we stand, but we won't base our motivation on the fact that we lost in London."

With the new Bundesliga starting on August 9th, bragging rights are up for grabs in this pre-season showdown, but much has already changed for both teams since Arjen Robben's late winner at Wembley.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes has been replaced by ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, Spain under-21 captain Thiago Alcantara has been recruited from the Camp Nou and Germany midfield star Mario Götze has joined from Dortmund.

Dortmund have also rung the changes by signing attacking midfielders Pierre-Emerick Aubameyeng, from St Etienne, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Illness or injury means neither are due to start at Dortmund's sold-out Westfalenstadion, with a crowd of 80,645 expected.

Mkhitaryan is out for the next few weeks having torn ankle ligaments in a pre-season match, while Aubameyeng, along with Poland winger Jakub 'Kuba' Blaszczykowski, is expected to be on the bench as he recovers from a stomach disorder.

Between them, Dortmund and Bayern have won the last four Bundesliga titles and there is much global interest in the match, which will be broadcast in 195 countries.

While Dortmund will start without their newly-signed trio, Bayern's star-studded squad will be at virtually full strength.

The European champions have won all nine of their pre-season friendlies at a canter, seeing off Catalan giants Barcelona 2-0 in Munich in Wednesday's friendly.

Guardiola has ten full internationals in his midfield and has said he will meet club bosses after Saturday's match to discuss whether any players should be sold before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo has been linked to Wolfsburg, while Premier Legaue side Liverpool are reported to be interested in Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri.

Both sides have played down the bad blood which flowed between them earlier this year, especially following the April announcement that Götze had activated a clause in his contract to join Bayern.

"Last season, there were one or two irritations, but they were dealt with publicly or internally," said Dortmund's director of sport Michael Zorc. "We would do well to just talk about ourselves."

In February, Bayern's president Uli Hoeness had boasted "the status quo in Germany has been restored" after Munich beat Dortmund in the German Cup quarter-final.

Bayern's director of sport Matthias Sammer insisted: "There'll always be a bit of rivalry."

AFP/jcw

 

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