Arsenal star man Mesut Ozil has defended his meeting with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying turning down the meeting would have been ‘disrespectful’ to his ancestors.
The German international who has always been proud of his Turkish ancestry presented the Turkish number one citizen with a signed Arsenal shirt during a London meeting in May alongside Ilkay Gundogan, and Cenk Tosun.
President Erdogan has been described as a modern-day dictator by his harshest critics and his three-day London visit was met with protests from a number of human-rights groups.
The past couple of weeks have given me time to reflect, 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.
Back home in his native Germany, the former Bremen player was a subject of discussion for meeting the Turkish President with Oliver Bierhoff suggesting he should have been axed from the World Cup squad as a result.
Even if that had transpired, the Arsenal midfielder revealed he would not change his course of action and insists meeting Erdogan was more about paying respect to his homeland rather than the man himself.
He wrote: “Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey. I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.
“In may, I met President Erdogan in London, during a charitable and educational event. We first met in 2010 after he and Angela Merkel watched the Germany vs. Turkey match together in Berlin.
“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.”