Football

So much love: Oezil thanks Arsenal fans in Singapore

Mesut Oezil thanked Arsenal fans for their “love” at a pre-season friendly after a torrid week following his racism allegations against Germany’s football body.

Oezil watched Arsenal’s defeat on penalties by Atletico Madrid on Thursday from the bench but he received one of the biggest cheers of the night when his image was flashed up on the big screen at the National Stadium in Singapore.

“Thanks to the Gunners in Singapore for showing so much love tonight,” the 29-year-old German midfielder tweeted, with a picture of him waving to the crowd.

Arsenal fans dominated the audience of 23,000 who watched the London team go down 3-1 on penalties to Atletico in the International Champions Cup, after normal time ended at 1-1.

Oezil, benched after his late return to training following the World Cup, sent shockwaves through German football when he quit the national team, complaining of “racism and disrespect”.

German football chief Reinhard Grindel rejected the racism charge but admitted he should have defended Oezil after the playmaker was abused for having a photograph taken with Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Oezil, who was born in Germany to Turkish-origin parents and lifted the World Cup in 2014, also felt he was unfairly singled out for their shock group-stage exit at this year’s tournament.

Arsenal’s new manager, Unai Emery, and players have rallied round Oezil on their pre-season tour, while the hashtags #StandWithOzil and #SayNoToRacism have been popular on social media.

“Of course everybody supports Mesut. We’re with him, we’re trying to help him,” Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan told AFP this week.

“Everyone knows that Arsenal are a team with a lot of foreign players and foreign employees. It doesn’t matter which country you represent, it’s like family and we support each other.” – AFP

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