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Mesut Ozil has announced his retirement from international football, hitting out at the “racist” and “disrespectful” treatment he received in the wake of his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany’s early World Cup exit.

The Arsenal star, who has Turkish ancestry, made the announcement on Sunday in a lengthy statement he posted on his Twitter account.

The 29-year-old attacking midfielder, who was part of the German squad that exited the 2018 World Cup at the group stage, felt he was singled out as a scapegoat for the failure due to his Turkish heritage and the Erdogan meeting in May.

“It is with a heavy heart and after much consideration that because of recent events, I will no longer be playing for Germany at international level whilst I have this feeling of racism and disrespect,” Ozil said.

“The treatment I have received from the DFB [German Football Association] and many others makes me no longer want to wear the German national team shirt,” he added.

“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. Attitudes like theirs simply do not reflect the players they supposedly represent.”

Ozil said he could not accept “German media outlets repeatedly blaming my dual-heritage and a simple picture for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad”.

He added: “I am German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose.”

Ozil earned 92 caps for Germany since his debut in 2009. He was a key member of the country’s 2014 World Cup-winning side.

“This decision has been extremely difficult to make because I’ve always given everything for my teammates … but when high-ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda, then enough is enough,” he wrote.

“That is not why I play football, and I will not sit back and do nothing about it. Racism should never, ever, be accepted.”

Ozil drew criticism at home after his meeting in Erdogan. He and Ilkay Gundogan – a teammate also of Turkish descent who likewise posed with Erdogan – were jeered in warm-up games before the World Cup in Russia.

In his statement on Sunday, Ozil said if he had not met the Turkish president, he would have been “disrespecting the roots of my ancestors”.

“For me having a picture with President Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country,” he said.

The Arsenal midfielder also said that he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins and insisted he did not intend to make a political statement.

“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said. “I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”

Relations between Germany and Turkey have soured amid a crackdown by Erdogan’s government on suspected supporters of a failed military coup in July 2016.

“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Ozil said.

“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”

SPORT

Nigeria Set To Lose Obafemi To Ireland

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Michael Obafemi is in line to make his senior international bow at some stage on Thursday after making the final squad for the games against Northern Ireland and Denmark.

The Southampton striker has recently broken into the Saints’ matchday squad, with two appearances off the bench in the last few weeks, and has been rewarded with a first call-up.

Obafemi was born in Dublin and grew up in England, while he’s also eligible to play for Nigeria, but he seems to have expressed his preference to represent his country of birth.

And he may benefit from the ankle injury picked up by clubmate Shane Long as Ireland prepare to host Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland in a friendly on Thursday.

Liverpool youngster Caoimhin Kelleher could also feature for the first time as he was retained as one of three goalkeepers in the final squad.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed that Glenn Whelan will captain the side on what is set to be his 85th and final appearance for his country.

The 34-year-old midfielder hasn’t formally announced his retirement but he hasn’t been called up since the World Cup play-off defeat to Denmark last November.

And the Aston Villa man will not travel on with the squad to Aarhus for the UEFA Nations League closer against the Danes on Sunday.

Robbie Brady also looks set to make his first international appearance since the Denmark play-offs after returning to action following a horrific leg break sustained in December.

Meanwhile, Ireland under-19 captain and Manchester United defender Lee O’Connor has been brought into the training squad but won’t be considered for selection.

Republic of Ireland squad to face Northern Ireland and Denmark:
Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph, Colin Doyle, Caoimhin Kelleher.

Defenders: Seamus Coleman, Cyrus Christie, Matt Doherty, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Kevin Long, John Egan, Darragh Lenihan, Lee O’Connor*, Enda Stevens.

Midfielders: Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Harry Arter, David Meyler, Shaun Williams, Alan Browne, Callum O’Dowda, James McClean.

Forwards: Scott Hogan, Sean Maguire, Callum Robinson, Aiden O’Brien, Ronan Curtis, Michael Obafemi.

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Zenith Bank/Delta Principals’ Cup: Young Strikers On The Rampage, As LG Stage Draws To A Close

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Youthful strikers competing at the ongoing Principals’ Cup competition for Secondary Schools in Delta State are making headlines with their beautiful displays.

The competition sponsored by Zenith Bank Plc is still at the stage whereby schools are jostling to pick the sole ticket to represent each of the 25 Local Governments in the state.

It was three years ago that the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led administration of Delta State revived the tournament which was in limbo for over 25 years in a partnership with Zenith Bank.

The results so far in the Local Governments indicate that more goals are being scored in the current edition of the annual tournament. In the Aniocha South LG match between Comprehensive Secondary School, Ogwa and St Anthony Secondary School, George Favour was on the rampage with four goals in the 4-1 victory recorded by the Ogwa team.

While fans of the game were still expressing delight about the feat achieved by Favour, Lucky Obiego also achieved similar feat in the final match of the Oshimili North LG decided only yesterday.

Lucky scored three goals within 15 minutes for Thomas Ibusa Secondary school in their 5-0 thrashing of Ugbolu Secondary School. He registered the 2nd, 3rd and 4th goals for his team in the 25th, 26th and 40th minutes respectively.

His feat was enough to earn his school a place in the zonal stage of the competition which is scheduled for January. It will be recalled that the highest scorers in the past two editions of the tournament were rewarded handsomely during the closing ceremony of the event.

Eyiyemi Stanley also recorded a brace for Beach Secondary School in their 3-1 win over Christ The Saviour International School.

Meanwhile, many of the LGs have fixed their final dates to conform totally with the schedule of the organizers.

For example, Ughelli South LG and Isoko North LG are expected to stage their finals on November 15 (Thursday) respectively.

The ongoing LG stage of the competition ends next week.

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Amangbo Promises More Support As First Bank Retains Title

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank, Peter Amangbo, has assured the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) that the bank will continue to support women basketball in the country.

Speaking at the final of the 14th edition of the women’s league sponsored by the bank, Amangbo said it was no longer a sponsorship but a partnership that would stay for many more years.

Amangbo expressed his happiness on the level of the competition this year despite the fact that it was an abridged league as he extolled the virtues of the late owner of one of the finalists, Dolphins Basketball team, late Wale Aboderin, who died early this year.

“I want to use this opportunity to remember a personal friend of mine and also the owner of Dolphins Women Team, Aboderin,” he said.

“We all missed him today and the whole of the basketball family but I am happy that the players and the family are living his dream.

“I want to assure everyone that it is no longer a sponsorship, but a partnership with the NBBF that will last for long.

“I want to appeal to all the players to be more dedicated and focused on their careers and also look up to the future.”

Meanwhile, defending champions, First Bank Basketball team, retained their title after defeating youthful Dolphins.

Despite a late rally by Dolphins led by Veronica Charles in the third and fourth quarters of the game, First Bank held on for the victory with 84 points to 66 points.

In the third place game played between Customs Basketball and new entrants to the league, MFM basketball team, ended 57 – 49 in favour of the border girls.

The Final Six final match was witnessed by a huge turnout of lover of the game.

The event started only on Sunday and the two finalists will represent Nigeria next week in continental basketball competition.

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