Outside of transfer season or whenever the Champions League music comes on, it easy as Liverpool fans, to forget about the football news happening outside of England on the continent. Exhibit A: the uproar in Germany around Mesut Özil’s retirement from the national team that has taken on political, racial and nativist tones and divided opinions across German football.
What ought to have been a run-of-the-mill public goodbye letter from the much-maligned midfielder has instead ignited raging controversy in Germany. In the letter, the player took a swipe what he deemed to be unreasonably harsh criticism of his World Cup performances. Özil who is of Turkish heritage, accused his detractors of hypocrisy, stating, “I am a German when we win, an immigrant when we lose.”
The subsequent blowback to the letter has been increasingly vicious, with the likes of Bayern Munich supremo Uli Hoeness and the German Football Association among the many attacking the player for his accusations. Even former international teammate, Toni Kroos has piled on, calling the manner in which the retirement was conducted as being “out of order,” and labeling the charge of racism as “nonsense.”
As the situation has escalated, Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp has been one of the few prominent figures in German football to come out in support of Özil. After initially taking the “both sides have a point” stance, the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss has now backed up the of hypocrisy accusations in condemning the excessive attacks on the Arsenal playmaker’s character.
“I should have positioned myself more clearly given the racist attacks from some corners and I should have put myself in front of Mesut Özil – such attacks are unacceptable,” the 51-year-old said speaking recently to Sport 1.
“In politics, little things have always been blown up and big things pushed away in order to continue,” Klopp explained.
“Normally, intelligent people tend to hold back because it is not easy to say the right thing. I would count myself [among them] too. All those who have no idea are very loud in these conversations.”
“I know İlkay Gündoğan very well, I know Emre Can and Nuri Sahin very well. I do not know Mesut so well, but I would like to take him home. I do not doubt these guys, at least about their loyalty to our homeland.”
“The difference is that they just have one more thing [in their heritage]. Where is the problem? That’s beautiful.”
“Cultural diversity, we all thought it was really cool around the 2006 World Cup,” Klopp continued. “I saw these fantastic commercials where the parents of Gerald Asamoah and Mario Gomez had a barbecue party together,” Klopp reminisced.
“We all sighed for how great that works. And now two guys are seduced by politically quite intelligent people to have a photo, and then have relatively few opportunities to say what they want 100 per cent right.”
“That’s why I find this discussion hypocritical. Bad things happened because people were not informed properly. Even the media should not create a buzz around something like this every day. Just cool off and see the people behind it.”
Those hypothetical few still questioning whether Klopp is the right person to lead Liverpool Football Club need only read this statement to be assured that this man, of them all, is consistently on the right side of any given issue. As Liverpool fans, we should take pride that it is a Red standing up for justice in the face of public opinion and the hope must be that his conviction will spur others to take a stand when it is called for.