The president of Germany’s football federation says he made mistakes in handling a controversy over Mesut Özil’s photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but is rejecting accusations of racism.
Özil announced his retirement from Germany’s national team on July 22. He criticized the federation, president Reinhard Grindel, fans and media for what he regarded as racism in treating people with Turkish roots. He defended the pre-World Cup meeting with Erdoğan.
In his first personal response, Grindel said in a written statement on July 26 that he regretted the federation’s criticism of the photo “was abused for racist slogans,” according to the Associated Press.
“In retrospect, I as president should have said unambiguously what is self-evident for me personally and for us all as a federation: Every form of racist hostility is intolerable and unacceptable.”
Grindel pushed back against being linked with racism, writing: “I reject this emphatically, for the federation and for myself personally.”
Grindel’s statement didn’t address his own future. The 56-year-old former lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party became DFB president in 2016. He has faced calls to resign in recent days from critics who fault his crisis management. No senior German football officials have resigned over the World Cup debacle.
He did, however, underline the importance of winning the right to host the 2024 European Championship. Germany and Turkey are bidding for the tournament and UEFA’s executive committee will choose the host in September.