German international footballers Mesut Özil and Ilkay Gündogan, who are both of Turkish descent, have been criticised for meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to England.
Arsenal’s Özil and Manchester City’s Gündogan joined Everton’s Turkish international striker Cenk Tosun in presenting Erdogan with a football shirt from their respective clubs.
They then posed for photos during a meeting with him at the Four Seasons Hotel in London on Sunday (May 13).
Gündogan’s shirt attracted particular attention as it included the message “with great respect for my President”.
Erdogan, who is up for reelection next month, is currently in Britain on an official state visit where he will be received by The Queen and will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May.
In the four years since Erdogan’s election, Turkey has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations with large crackdowns on free press and social media leading to the imprisonment of several journalists.
As reported by Deutsche Welle, the gesture by Özil and Gündogan has drawn criticism from German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel.
“Of course the DFB respects the special situation of players from migrant backgrounds,” he said.
“But football and the DFB stand for values that are not sufficiently respected by Mr. Erdogan.
“It’s not good that our players are letting themselves be exploited for the good of his [election] campaign.
“The actions of these players have not helped the integration efforts of the DFB.”
Some fans of the German national team have now called for Özil and Gündogan to not be included in Germany’s preliminary World Cup squad, which will be announced today.
The situation has also unfolded with Turkey and Germany bidding against each other to stage the 2024 UEFA European Championships.
At a media briefing to promote Turkey’s bid, Turkish Football Federation vice-president and UEFA Executive Committee member Servet Yardımcı denied that the federation would be using players of Turkish descent to promote the bid.