BERLIN – The father of Mesut Ozil said Sunday his son should quit Germany's national squad after he was "made the scapegoat" for Die Mannschaft's shock first-round defeat at the World Cup.
Ozil, 29, has come in for hefty criticism in Germany after the World Champions crashed out in Russia, finishing bottom of their group.
Pressure had already been mounting on the Arsenal midfielder in the World Cup run-up over a controversial photograph with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that was seized on to question his loyalty to Germany.
On Thursday, Germany's team boss Oliver Bierhoff sparked a new round of outcry over a statement suggesting Ozil, who has Turkish roots, should have been dropped after his failure to publicly clear up the Erdogan meeting.
"This statement is insolent. In my opinion, it is aimed at saving one's own skin," said the mid-fielder's father Mustafa Ozil in an interview with Bild am Sonntag.
Bierhoff later backtracked, apologising that he "was wrong".
Ozil senior said he believed his son had agreed to have a photograph taken with Erdogan only out of "politeness" and that it was never meant to be a political statement. He also defended Ozil for not having spoken out to clarify his position.
"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 Ozil? He is now getting whistled at and made a scapegoat. I can understand if he feels insulted," said the midfielder's father.
Calling the treatment accorded to his son "so unfair", Ozil 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.AFP