AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — Qatari fans strike back at the World Cup in Germany protest on Sunday holding pictures of former Germany player Mesut Özil as he covered his mouth during the match against Spain.
One group of fans had copies of a hand-drawn sketch of Özil, while others displayed footage of him in action for Germany.
The clearly coordinated display was apparently in response to the gesture by the Germany players on Wednesday, when they covered their mouths in protest against FIFA. following the crackdown on the governing body of the “One Love” bracelet. That gesture was a response to FIFA’s effective ban on the plans of seven European teams to wear armbands. that was seen as a rebuke to the host nation Qatar and its human rights record.
Qatari fans appeared on Sunday to refer to Germany’s questionable treatment of Özil, the former player who resigned from the national team after becoming a target of racist abuse and a scapegoat for Germany’s early elimination from the World Cup in 2018.
Özil, a German-born descendant of Turkish immigrants, accused the country’s soccer federation, fans and the media of racism in their treatment of people with Turkish roots.
“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said at the time.
The abuse began before the 2018 World Cup when Özil and his Germany teammate Ilkay Gündogan posed for photos with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gundogan also has a Turkish family background. He was subsequently booed by German supporters during a World Cup warm-up match.
The abuse of Özil, in particular, increased after the tournament, aided by inflammatory statements by German team manager Oliver Bierhoff and the federation president at the time, Reinhard Grindel.
Grindel later said that he should have given Özil more support.
After playing in Sunday’s game at Al Bayt Stadium, which Germany and Spain drew 1-1Gundogan said that he only wanted to focus on football from now on.
“Honestly, my point of view is: now the policy is over,” Gundogan said. “The country of Qatar is very proud to host the World Cup, also the first Muslim country, and I come from a Muslim family. So the Muslim community is proud. So I think now it’s just about football.”
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