The German Football Association (DFB) says Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan have “let themselves be exploited” after posing for pictures with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Arsenal’s Ozil and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan, who are both German internationals born in Gelsenkirchen and of Turkish origin, met Erdogan in London on Sunday alongside Everton striker Cenk Tosun.
All three handed Erdogan, who has been president of Turkey since 2014 having previously served as prime minister since 2003, signed shirts from their clubs. Erdogan is in the middle of campaigning after he declared snap elections last month.
However, the DFB says it now intends to speak with Ozil and Gundogan after photos of the meeting were used on social media by Erdogan’s campaign team.
“The DFB of course respects the special situation for our players with migrant backgrounds, but football and the DFB stands for values that Mr Erdogan does not sufficiently respect,” DFB president Reinhard Grindel said.
“Therefore, it is not a good thing that our internationals have let themselves be exploited for his election campaign stunt. It certainly hasn’t helped the DFB’s integration efforts.”
DFB team coordinator Oliver Bierhoff said: “I still have absolutely no doubts about Mesut and Ilkay’s commitment to playing for the Germany national team and how much they identify with our values.
“They were unaware of the symbolism of these pictures, but we cannot endorse it, and we will discuss the matter with the players.”