Qatari fans hold up Mesut Ozil images in Germany's World Cup clash against Spain

Qatari fans hold up images of Mesut Ozil during Germany's World Cup clash against Spain in response to the Germans' recent protest ahead of the match with Japan at the 2022 World Cup.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Qatari fans responded to Germany's recent protest ahead of the game against Japan by holding up images of Mesut Ozil and covering their mouths during the four-time champions' World Cup clash with Spain on Sunday.

Germany's players covered their mouths for the official team photo prior to their match against Japan on Wednesday, a signal that they would not be silenced after they were banned from wearing the OneLove armband at Qatar 2022.

Ozil retired from the national team after the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the former Arsenal playmaker was criticised following a meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan had spoken out against German politics and has been accused of abusing human rights, leading to criticism for Ozil, who is of Turkish descent.

In turn, Ozil hit out at former DFB president Reinhard Grindel.

"People with racially discriminative backgrounds should not be allowed to work in the largest football federation in the world that has players from dual‑heritage families," he said.

"Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose."

Ozil, who now plays in Turkey with Istanbul Basaksehir after a spell at Fenerbahce, revealed last year that his stance had not changed.

"I wish the German national team success, but I will never play for them again," he said.

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Weekend editor

Ben Hayward is Weekend Editor for FourFourTwo. A European football writer with over 15 years’ experience, he has covered games all over the world - including three World Cups, several Champions League finals, Euros, Copa América - and has spent much of that time in Spain. He currently divides his time between Barcelona and London.