Ilkay Gundogan, Mesut Ozil and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for a photo in London on May 14, 2018. Photo: AA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Two German footballers of Turkish descent, Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, have faced backlash from fans ahead of the World Cup due to a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the latter having his car vandalized earlier this month.
Police in Cologne, Germany confirmed that Gundogan filed a police report after the windows of his car were smashed in when it was parked in front of a Cologne hotel on June 7, as reported by Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
German media linked the attack to a meeting Ozil and Gundogan had with the Turkish President Erdogan in London last month after they gifted autographed jerseys and took photos with him.
President of the German Football Federation (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, said that the duo was exploited by Erdogan's election campaign.
Gundogan was also booed by German fans during a friendly match with Saudi Arabia earlier this month and both players even faced calls to be excluded from playing during the World Cup.
Political tensions have increased between Germany and Turkey within the last few years with Turkish-German journalist, Deniz Yucel, being held in a Turkish prison for over a year for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda, in addition to crackdowns by Erdogan following the 2016 failed coup attempt.
Germany is due to face Mexico in their first World Cup game this year at 6 p.m. local time on Sunday. It is uncertain whether or not Gundogan and Ozil will be playing in the match.