Chancellor Angela Merkel and former national team captain Philipp Lahm have spoken out in defence of Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan after the pair were booed by fans in Germany’s World Cup warm-up matches.
The duo were targeted by sections of supporters in Germany’s friendly games against Austria and Saudi Arabia following their interactions with controversial Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan, who has been the subject of criticism from human rights groups, was pictured shaking Ozil’s hand at a meeting with the Premier League’s contingent of Turkish players, while Gundogan referred to him as “my president”.
Merkel called for the country to get behind the pair ahead of the World Cup, telling the ARD that they “didn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially not German fans in any way.”
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 8, 2018
She added: “I think the two players have not considered what the photo triggers with President Erdogan.”
Lahm, who captained Germany to victory at the World Cup in 2014, took a similarly sympathetic tone and pointed to the pair’s good performances in World Cup warm-up games as he sought to cool the public mood around them.
“You know what they mean to Germany, which has now been clarified once again,” Lahm told the Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper.
“That’s just how Germany is – a bit contradictory.”
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