60,000 mesmerised onlookers erupt when the name is announced. A name synonymous with mercurial guile, deft control and ice-cold composure. There’s an aura to his movement, when he touches the ball the ball thanks him for being so delicate in his care. The name is Mesut Ozil. The artistry of the number 10 is world revered, or at least, when the outlets entrusted with covering his genius care to halt an agenda blinded by hatred.
Taking a stand in the face of adversity is not just a minor obstacle on the road to the greater good, it is building that exact road you want others to be able to travel down. Özil’s retirement from international football speaks volumes, showing a man hell-bent on the betterment of those around him, whether that be on the pitch, or off it. This is a man who committed his prime years to the glorious red and white of the Gunners, despite the catastrophic tornado of despair that he saw cascading towards London Colney. That moment, the ink from the pen in his hand delicately embedding itself in the contract tying him to the Emirates, was the first overt sign of something igniting within the German. What was ignited here was special, a blossoming desire to be a trailblazer, to repay the faith Arsene Wenger had shown him, and to prove to the critics that ravage the English press that he deserves to be regarded in the elite of his field.
The false narrative of laziness and disinterest plagues coverage of the German. The definition of scapegoat may as well have his face next to it in the dictionary, so relentless is the unwarranted abuse hurled his way. It was an inconvenient truth that Özil played through injury in the Gunner’s Europa League run, a truth dismissed as nonsensical by the majority of the English press. Geniuses are ridiculed by those incapable of understanding their greatness, leaving it no surprise that 29 year old is ridiculed to the extreme. When the false narrative of Özil’s laziness began to wear thin, a new narrative needed to be forced, and in steps a picture with President Erdogan of Turkey. Inevitably, the media pounced like crazed hyenas, deluding themselves into believing they had sufficient grounds to abuse Özil.
The statement of the Gunner’s number 10 today not only disproves the narrative peddled throughout the German’s time in an Arsenal shirt, but paints the mesmeric midfield maestro in a different light. He is a man emboldened, battle worn from years of relentless abuse. He is a man taking a stand against global injustices, irrespective of any potential fall-out. Scoring 23 goals and having 40 assists (the most of any German player ever for the national team), he retires engrained into the legacy of German football. However, it is his retirement that solidifies his legacy. Whilst others stand by idly, complicit in the discrimination and abuse Özil faced, the German has paved the way for a dialogue regarding discrimination in the DFB, and beyond that, racism in 2018 Europe (a statement that seems ludicrous to have to even type).
Özil is back with Arsenal, who under the close guidance of Unai Emery, will test their credentials in Singapore against PSG and Atletico Madrid. The fact he cut his holiday short to return to pre-season training is no doubt another inconvenient truth that critics blinded by hatred will suppress. Whilst the DFB cascade into turmoil, Özil confirms his status as a trailblazer, both on and off the pitch. Whatever it may be that the 2018/19 season entails, Mesut’s words and actions transcend football, and position him at the forefront of social change in football, a position Arsenal fans will wholeheartedly support. His genius may be misunderstood elsewhere, but here, on the meticulous canvas of the Emirates, another season of artistry awaits. I think I speak for all Gunners when I type these words; I stand with Özil.
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