The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) says comments made by German Football Association (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel over a meeting between Mesut Ozil, Ilkay Gundogan and Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan were “very disturbing” and “unacceptable”.
Germany internationals Ozil and Gundogan were pictured with Erdogan during the president’s state visit to the United Kingdom, leading Grindel to issue a warning to the Premier League stars.
“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.”
Although the DFB’s stance appeared to have softened at a news conference to announce a provisional World Cup squad on Tuesday, TFF president Yildirim Demiroren hit out at his German counterpart.
“It was very disturbing for me to read the tweets posted by German Football Association president on his social media account, which includes detrimental statements about our president Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Demiroren said. “The DFB president’s remarks are unacceptable.
“It is a very well-known fact that our president Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a former player, is a big football fan who has massively contributed to the progress of the game in Turkey.
“In that sense, his meeting with Germany internationals Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan as well as Turkey international striker Cenk Tosun, who are all Germany-born professional footballers with Turkish descent, is only natural. Footballers of any nationality will always be welcomed by our president, especially when they are the ones who want to have such a meeting.
“It is a terrible mistake to mix politics with football as can be seen from the German president’s example. For its part, the Turkish Football Federation in no way will participate in such behaviour and will continue to comply with the rules set out by UEFA until the last moment of the UEFA EURO 2024 voting.”
Speaking on Tuesday, Germany coach Joachim Low said Ozil and Gundogan – both included in his initial World Cup squad – must learn from the Erdogan controversy.
“We told them that this has not been the best idea,” Low said. “But I am also sympathetic towards them.
“Two hearts sometimes beat in players with an immigrant background. It’s not that easy, and both have said they did not want to make a political statement.
“Both have done a lot for integration in Germany. It will be a lesson for them.”