Germany's forgotten World Cup hero shuns them on arrival in Qatar

Qatari fans hold up signs displaying former Germany player Mesut Ozil in the stands. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

Mesut Ozil knows a thing or two about timing, and he seems to have not lost touch despite not being counted among the world's finest football playmakers anymore.

Still only 34, the once indispensable member of the German national team who helped them become world champions in 2014, no longer plays for them due to political/personal reasons.

And Ozil had remained elusive since World Cup began in Qatar on November 20 even as top players, past and current, converged in the Middle East to partake in the celebrations. But when he finally arrived, it was, yet again, timed to perfection: On the day Germany plays for survival in the Qatar World Cup.

Going into Thursday's fixtures, Germany were bottom of Group E with a point from two matches. The four-time world champions have to crush Costa Rica and hope Japan doesn't upset Spain, for their chance to advance to the knockout stages.

But Ozil has left fans guessing as to whether he is in Qatar to support Germany. Hours before kickoff, Ozil, who is not a regular on social media, posted a picture of him inside a World Cup stadium in Qatar, thanking the hosts for their 'hospitality and perfect organisation'.

He summed up his short note by pasting the emojis of two flags, neither of which were German. One was Turkey and the other of the host nation, Qatar.

Germany's players had covered their mouths for the team photo before their opening match to protest against FIFA following the governing body's clampdown on the One Love armband. Sporting rainbow colours, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, has been a key contentious issue. Some European officials have brought those colours to the stands.

Qatari fans responded to Germany's protest by holding pictures of Mesut Ozil while covering their mouths.

Ozil's love-hate relationship with Germany is no secret. After being allegedly singled out for Germany's unceremonious exit in the group stages at the 2018 World Cup, Ozil famously said: "I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose."

Soon after, he retired from the national team accusing the German Football Federation of racism. Ozil has been playing club football in Turkey, the nation of his ancestors, since 2021.
(With agency inputs)

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