Oliver Bierhoff insists that Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan were not making a “conscious political signal” when they met with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ozil and Gundogan, who are both of Turkish descent, were pictured at Turkey’s London embassy alongside Erdogan ahead of the politician’s meeting with UK prime minister Theresa May last month.
Erdogan is seeking re-election in his homeland against a backdrop of pressure from human rights groups and exiled Turkish citizens, who have denounced the government’s alleged systematic arrest of journalists, civil rights activists and political opponents.
The German Football Federation (DFB) criticised Ozil and Gundogan, who appeared alongside Everton and Turkey striker Cenk Tosun, for taking part in an “election campaign stunt” – an observation that was branded “unacceptable” by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).
Bierhoff, who is the national team’s general manager, is confident that there was no political agenda behind the meeting and that it is now time to draw a line under the episode.
Speaking ahead of Germany’s friendly against Austria on Saturday, Bierhoff said: “Mesut and Ilkay are young people, you do not have to condemn them forever.
“I quickly realised that they did not want to send a conscious political signal.
“We wanted to understand how it came about, and we wanted to be sure that there was no political intent.”
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