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FOOTBALL

‘Scapegoat’ Özil should quit German team, says father

Mesut Özil's father said Sunday his son should quit Germany's national squad after he was made a "scapegoat" for their shock first-round defeat at the World Cup.

'Scapegoat' Özil should quit German team, says father
Mesut Ozil training in Switzerland for the EuroCup in 2016. Photo: DPA

Özil, 29, has come in for sharp criticism in Germany after the holders crashed out in Russia, finishing bottom of their group. Pressure had already been mounting on the Arsenal midfielder in the run-up to the tournament over a controversial photograph with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which sparked questions about his loyalty to Germany.

On Thursday, team boss Oliver Bierhoff suggested that perhaps Germany should have considered dropping Özil, who has Turkish roots, after his failure to explain himself over the issue.

But the midfielder's father, Mustafa Özil, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag, said: “This statement is insolent. In my opinion, it is aimed at saving one's own skin.”

Bierhoff had backtracked on Friday, saying that he “was wrong” to put Özil under undue pressure.

But German Football Federation chief Reinhard Grindel has now waded in, arguing that Özil must go public.

His failure to speak out “has disappointed many fans, because they have questions and expect answers”, Grindel told Kicker magazine in an interview to be published Monday.

“They are rightly expecting this answer. That's why it is absolutely clear to me that for his own interest, Mesut should speak out when he returns from his holidays.”

Özil senior defended his son for not clarifying his position publicly.

“He no longer wants to explain himself, he no longer wants to have to defend himself all the time. He has been playing for nine years in the German team… including becoming world champions with the A-team.

“He has contributed a lot for this country. It has always been: if we win, we win together.

“But when we lose, we lose because of Özil? He is now getting whistled at and made a scapegoat. I can understand if he feels insulted,” said the midfielder's father.

Mesut had agreed to have a photograph taken with Erdogan only out of “politeness” and it was never meant to be a political statement, he added.

Calling his son's treatment “unfair”, Özil senior said “he needs to decide for himself. But if I were in his place, I'd say – thanks a lot but that's it.”

“The hurt has grown too strong. And who knows what'll happen at the next match? In Mesut's place, I would step down. But that's just my very personal opinion,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Why pick on Ozil?

    Trying to decide which German player stunk the worst is like choosing between decomposing corpses and a manure lagoon at a pig farm.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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