Germany star Ozil defends his photo with Turkish president

By Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) Mesut Ozil is defending his decision to pose for a picture with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying it wasn't an endorsement of his politics.

The Arsenal star broke weeks of silence on the issue Sunday, posting a statement in English on Twitter in which he said the photo "was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country" and had "no political intentions."

Ilkay Gundogan, who also posed for the photo, has previously distance himself from the picture which sparked fierce criticism in Germany.

Some German politicians questioned Ozil and Gundogan's loyalty and suggested the players, who have Turkish roots, should be struck from the national squad ahead of the World Cup.

Following Germany's early exit from the tournament, some fans focused their disappointment on Ozil and Gundogan.

Updated July 22, 2018