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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

German FA president admits mistakes in handling of Mesut Ozil row

Reinhard Grindel believes the organisation should have been clearer in their support for the Arsenal player

The German FA president has admitted to mistakes in the handling of Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. Action Images via Reuters
The German FA president has admitted to mistakes in the handling of Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. Action Images via Reuters

The under-fire president of the German Football Association (DFB), has admitted that he should have given Mesut Ozil more support when the midfielder was the target of "racist attacks".

"I should have positioned myself more clearly given the racist attacks from some corners and should have put myself in front of Mesut Ozil," Reinhard Grindel told German daily Bild on Sunday. "Such attacks are unacceptable. I should have found clear words."

Arsenal midfielder Ozil, 29, announced his retirement from international duty last month in the wake of Germany's World Cup disappointment where the defending champions were eliminated in the group stages.

He complained of facing "racism and disrespect", due to his Turkish roots, and specifically took aim at Grindel in a three-page statement.

After Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, who also has Turkish family, met Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May, questions were raised about the pair's loyalty to Germany.

Gundogan and Ozil, who were both born in Germany, were booed in a pre-World Cup defeat to Austria.

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"In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil wrote in his statement, sparking fierce debate about integration in Germany.

But while Gundogan made a statement to insist the Erdogan meeting had no political motivation, Ozil kept silent for two months before walking away from Germany duty.

In his parting statement, he accused Grindel of failing to back him in the row over the Erdogan meeting and felt blamed for Germany's woeful World Cup display, where they finished bottom of their group after being beaten by Mexico and South Korea.

There have been calls for Grindel, 56, who has been head of the DFB since 2016, to resign.

Grindel admits he should have handled things differently, but rejected Ozil's claims that he was made a scapegoat for the World Cup debacle.

"I am sorry he feels let down by the DFB," Grindel said.

"But it is important to emphasis that after the World Cup, I never commented on his performances.

"For me it was always clear that we win together and lose together. To blame a single player for going out would be absurd.

"After the photos with president Erdogan, Ilkay Gundogan made a clear statement.

"I would have liked that also from Ozil, because I know from conversations with fans that they also had questions about it.

"However, this must not be misunderstood as a criticism of his playing performance."

Grindel said the door is not closed for Ozil to play for Germany again under manager Joachim Low, who has always publicly supported the attacking midfielder, despite the criticism that came the player's way.

"The board (of the DFB) and the national coach would need to discuss that together," said Grindel.

"But so far there has not been a discussion between Joachim Low and Mesut Ozil, which I know would be very important to the national coach."

Low has promised sweeping changes to the squad he will announce on August 29 to face World Cup winners France in Munich on September 6.

Grindel wants to bring the Germany team closer to the public with cheaper tickets for home internationals and open training sessions as they try and bounce back from their disappointment in Russia and start preparing for the 2020 European Championships, where they will bid to win the tournament for the first time since 1996.

Germany's World Cup slogan - 'Best Never Rest' - was criticised by fans and Grindel admits the marketing around the team hit the wrong note.

"I also think the concept around the term 'die Mannschaft' (the team) is perceived as very artificial. We should put that to the test," Grindel added.