“Özil’s Burden: On Quitting Germany Football Team”

Mesut Özil’s withdrawal from the German football team on Sunday came as a shock to many. One of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, Özil has been a mainstay of the Die Mannschaft — as the national squad is called — for almost a decade, as his 23 goals and 40 assists from 92 appearances attest. But when he released an explosive statement, with a declaration that he could no longer wear the German shirt with “pride and excitement” because of “racism and disrespect”, it caused many a football fan to shudder. The turn of events has its roots in Özil and fellow footballer İlkay Gündoğan meeting Turkish President Recep Erdoğan in London and presenting him with shirts just before the World Cup. Both Özil and Gündoğan are Germany-born players of Turkish origin and their act was perceived as an endorsement of the Turkish leader, who is widely derided for leading his country down the path of autocracy with rampant human rights violations. Germany’s surprise first-round exit from the 2018 World Cup in Russia produced a convenient brickbat to target Özil with, and it was compounded by the vitriol directed at him. From DFB (German Football Association) president Reinhard Grindel to the legendary skipper Lothar Matthäus to sections of the media, the Arsenal playmaker spared no one as he alleged they had “disrespected his Turkish roots” and “selfishly turned [him] into political propaganda.” The episode has unravelled at a time when Germany is at a crossroads — over whether to move forward and forge a more cosmopolitan, open society or retreat into its nationalistic past. Özil, apart from his immigrant background, is a practising Muslim, and when Germany won the 2014 World Cup he was the poster boy of the DFB’s efforts to make football inclusive. That one international failure — which could be explained purely in footballing terms — can lead to such a vile debate clearly indicates the fault lines. “I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose,” lamented the 29-year-old. To have his loyalty questioned even after he gave up his Turkish passport in order to play for Germany must have been distressing. However, Özil has unwittingly walked into an unnecessary controversy over a sensitive issue. Meeting President Erdoğan may have been “about respecting the highest office of his family’s country”, but he should have been mindful of the fact that Germany and Turkey shared a tenuous relationship, with the Turkish President having accused Angela Merkel’s government of being stuck in Germany’s Nazi past. And when a minister in the Turkish Cabinet termed Özil’s move to quit as the “most beautiful goal against the virus of fascism”, it hit Germany where it hurt the most. When Özil said he had “two hearts, one German, one Turkish,” he was attempting a delicatebalancing act, favouring integration — a cherished modern-day value — over assimilation. Little did he expect that it would be so rough a ride.




Meaning: Someone or something on which something else is based or relies.

Example: “whitefish are the mainstay of the local industry”

Synonyms: Backbone, Anchor


Meaning: Witness or certify formally.

Example: “the witnesses must attest and sign the will in the testator’s presence”

Synonyms: Certify, Confirm

Antonyms: Disprove


Meaning: Likely to cause an outburst of anger or controversy.

Example: “Marco’s explosive temper”

Synonyms: Fiery, Violent


Meaning: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Example: “a programme to combat racism”

Synonyms: Intolerance


Meaning: To shake suddenly and briefly, esp. because of an unpleasant thought or feeling.

Example: I shuddered, remembering the frightening stories I had heard.


Meaning: Become aware or conscious of (something); come to realize or understand.

Example: “his mouth fell open as he perceived the truth”

Synonyms: Discern, Recognize


Meaning: The action of endorsing someone or something.

Example: “the issue of full independence received overwhelming endorsement”

Synonyms: Support, Approval

Antonyms: Opposition


Meaning: Express contempt for; ridicule.

Example: “the decision was derided by environmentalists”

Synonyms: Ridicule, Mock

Antonyms: Respect, Praise


Meaning: A system of government by one person with absolute power.

Synonyms: Absolutism, Autarchy


Meaning: (especially of something unwelcome) flourishing or spreading unchecked.

Example: “political violence was rampant”

Synonyms: Uncontrolled, Unrestrained


Meaning: A critical remark or comment.

Example: “the plaudits were beginning to outnumber the brickbats”


Meaning: Bitter criticism or malice.

Example: “her mother’s sudden gush of fury and vitriol”


Meaning: Become undone.

Example: “part of the crew neck had unravelled”

Synonyms: Fail, Collapse

Antonyms: Succeed


Meaning: To make an illegal copy of something in order to deceive.

Example: A number of forged works of art have been sold as genuine.


Meaning: Someone who has experience of many different parts of the world.

Example: Lisa is a real cosmopolitan.


Meaning: Extremely unpleasant.

Example: “he has a vile temper”

Synonyms: Unpleasant, Bad

Antonyms: Pleasant


Meaning: Express regret or disappointment about something.

Example: “she lamented the lack of shops in the town”

Synonyms: Deplore, Bewail


Meaning: Without being aware; unintentionally.

Example: “many users unwittingly expose their personal details to strangers online”


Meaning: Very weak or slight.

Example: “the tenuous link between interest rates and investment”

Synonyms: Weak, Suspect

Antonyms: Strong, Substantial


Meaning: A political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed.

Example: This year’s history syllabus covers the rise of Fascism in Europe.


Meaning: Very fine in texture or structure; of intricate workmanship or quality.

Example: “a delicate lace shawl”

Synonyms: Fine, Elegant

Antonyms: Crude, Coarse


Meaning: Hold (something) dear.

Example: “I cherish the letters she wrote”

Synonyms: Treasure, Prize

Antonyms: Neglect


Meaning: The process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas.

Example: “the assimilation of the knowledge of the Greeks”