Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil said on Sunday he would no longer play for the national team.
In an impassioned statement, the 29-year-old said he reached the decision because he faced racism and disrespect because of his Turkish roots.
Ozil was a member of Germany’s World Cup-winning side in 2014 and has been voted by fans as the team’s player of the year five times since 2011.
But the Arsenal star faced a barrage of criticism at home for having his photograph taken with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in May, in addition to his underwhelming display at the World Cup where defending champions Germany failed to qualify from the group stage.
He and Ilkay Gundogan, a teammate also of Turkish descent who also posed with Erdogan, were jeered by some German fans in warm-up games before the World Cup in Russia.
German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel had blamed him for Germany’s poor performance in Russia.
“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
He added he did not feel accepted in German society despite paying taxes there, making donations to German schools and being part of the team that won the World Cup.
“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level while I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” he said.
“I used to wear the German shirt with such pride and excitement, but now I don’t,” he said. “I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten.”
Ozil questioned whether there were criteria for being German that he did not meet and asked why he should be referred to as German-Turkish when fellow German soccer players Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose were not referred to as German-Polish.
“Is it because it is Turkey? Is it because I’m a Muslim? I think here lays an important issue,” he said, adding that he had “two hearts: one German, one Turkish”.
Ozil has 92 caps for Germany and has scored 23 goals.