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FOOTBALL

‘I felt disrespected’: Mesut Özil opens up on racism and German football

Mesut Özil has opened up about being at the centre of an attempted car-jacking and his explosive resignation from the Germany team following racist abuse.

'I felt disrespected': Mesut Özil opens up on racism and German football
Özil celebrating a goal in April in London. Photo: DPA

The Arsenal midfielder, his wife Amine and team-mate Sead Kolasinac were involved in a terrifying car-jacking on July 25th, two weeks before the Premier League season started.

Footage on social media showed Bosnian defender Kolasinac chasing off two moped attackers, who were wearing helmets.

A man admitted in a London court earlier this month to trying to rob Özil and Kolasinac and will be sentenced in November.

READ ALSO: German footballer Mesut Özil and teammate targeted by 'armed car-jacker'

“Sead's reaction was really, really brave because he attacked one of the attackers,” Özil, 31, said in an interview with The Athletic published on Thursday.

“The second one was in front of my car on his moped so I couldn't drive.

“We were newly wed and I was scared about my wife. I was scared about Sead. I wasn't thinking about myself. I was worried they were going to open my wife's door and they tried, so I reached across her to keep it closed.”

Özil, currently out of favour at Arsenal, said although nobody was harmed physically, the incident shook up his wife.

“My wife wanted to get away immediately,” said the ex-Germany international.

“She didn't feel safe. Even if I let our dogs into the garden and went out with them she would say, 'Come in, come in, stay in the house.'”

But he said the incident did not make him want to leave London and he plans to stay until his Arsenal contract expires in 2021.

The 2014 World Cup winner has played just two matches this season, fuelling speculation over his long-term future.


Özil at a test match between FC Arsenal and FC Bayern München in July. Photo: DPA

'Immigrant when we lose'

“When I signed the new deal (in 2018) I thought about it very carefully,” he said.

“I didn't want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit and the club wanted me to do the same.

“You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away and I'm not going to. I'm here until at least 2021.”

Özil spoke of his disappointment at being singled out for blame when Unai Emery's team under-performs.

“If we don't do well in a 'big' game, it's always my fault,” said the midfielder, who joined Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013.

“If that's true, how do you explain our results in the 'big' games when I wasn't involved?

“I know people expect me to offer more, dictate play and make the difference — I do, too — but it's not that straightforward.”

He also opened up about his shock early retirement from international football  following a disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign in which Germany failed to qualify from their group, claiming that he is seen as “a German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose”.

Özil fell out of favour with German fans on the eve of those finals by controversially posing for a picture with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I don't say people must love me, but just show respect about what I've done for Germany,” said Özil, who made 92 international appearances.

READ ALSO: 'Scapegoat Özil' should quit German team, says father

“My generation changed German football. It became more fun to watch.

“But after the (Erdogan) photo, I felt disrespected and unprotected.

“I was receiving racist abuse — even from politicians and public figures — yet nobody from the national team came out and said, 'Hey, stop. This is our player, you can't insult him like that'.

“Racism has always been there, but people used this situation as an excuse to let it out.”

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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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