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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.”

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[BREAKING] Coronavirus: Arsenal Players Quarantined, EPL Game Postponed

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Arsenal’s game at Manchester City was postponed on Wednesday after players from the London club were put into quarantine, making it the first Premier League fixture to be called off because of the new coronavirus.

Arsenal said players and four staff had been isolated at their homes after coming into contact with the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are strictly following the government guidelines which recommend that anyone coming into close contact with someone with the virus should self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact,” an Arsenal statement said.

“As a result, the players are unavailable for tonight’s (Wednesday’s) match against Manchester City and the Premier League has decided the game should be postponed.”

The first postponement in the Premier League, which has a worldwide following of billions of TV viewers, follows widespread disruption to football and other sports across the globe.

Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League by Olympiakos in late February. Vangelis Marinakis, the owner of the Greek club and England’s Nottingham Forest, announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But Arsenal said the players and staff, who met Marinakis after the game at the Emirates Stadium, will return to work on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton.

“The medical advice we have received puts the risk of them developing COVID-19 at extremely low,” it added.

The Premier League called the move a “precautionary measure” and said there were no plans to postpone any other games.

Football’s Serie A and all other sports have been put on hold in Italy, while the top two divisions in Spain and France will be played in empty stadiums for at least the next two weeks.

UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League have also been both forced to arrange matches behind closed doors as the epidemic spreads.

Olympiakos host Wolverhampton Wanderers in Athens this week in the Europa League, in one of the last-16 games that will be played in front of an empty stadium.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo has joined a number of managers, including Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, in voicing disquiet at being asked to play without fans.

“If we have to go we will. But we don’t agree — we’re not happy to go,” he told Sky Sports.

“Behind closed doors doesn’t make sense,” he added. “We’re pretending to live a normal life when things aren’t normal.”

Wednesday’s postponement could also frustrate Premier League leaders Liverpool, as a Manchester City defeat would have taken them to the brink of their first top-flight title in 30 years.

 

AFP

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GTBank Masters Cup Season 9 Reaches Semi Final Stage

Peter Okunoren

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After a thrilling round of football in the quarter-finals, eight teams in the male and female categories have advanced to the semi-final stages of the 2020 GTBank Masters Cup. All four games will be played at the Campos Stadium, Lagos Island, on Wednesday 5th February 2020, where the Semi-Finalists will compete for a coveted spot in the grand finale.

Last season’s winners in the male and female category, Kings College and Lead-Forte Gate College, will hope to defend their title when they take on Eko Boys High School, Mushin and Queens College, Yaba respectively.

Coming off their five-goal rout of International School Lagos in the quarterfinals, Greensprings School, Lekki will be looking to keep up the momentum against last year’s male finalists, Anwar-Ul-Islam Model College, Agege who also completed a seven-goal rout of C.M.S Grammar School, Yaba. In the female category, Ansar-Ud-Deen Girls High School, Itire and Greensprings School, Lekki will battle it out for one of two spots in the final of the GTBank Masters Cup.

Since its commencement in 2012, the GTBank Masters Cup has become one of the most anticipated secondary school football competitions renowned for discovering and developing indigenous talents, some of whom have secured scholarships and trials with football academies around the world. Now in its 9th season, the competition hosts 50 teams from over 40 schools who come together to showcase their football talent, whilst promoting the values of sportsmanship, passion, and fair play.

The full schedule of the semi-finals is as follows:

Wednesday 5th February 2020

Female Category

Ansar-Ud-Deen Girls High School, Itire vs Greensprings School, Lekki

Lead-Forte Gate College, Lekki vs Queens College, Yaba

Male Category

Anwar-Ul-Islam Model College, Agege vs Greensprings School, Lekki

Eko Boys High School, Mushin vs Kings College, Lagos Island

 

 

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GTBank Sponsors 2020 Lagos International Polo Tournament

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From February 4th to 16th, 2020, Lagos will play host to some of the most prestigious teams for Africa’s premier polo competition – the 2020 Lagos International Polo Tournament.

Sponsored by leading African Financial Institution, Guaranty Trust Bank plc, the competition will feature 39 teams; the highest number till date. The teams will compete in four major cups; the Silver Cup, Open Cup, Low Cup, and Majekodunmi Cup. The finals of the Silver Cup and Open Cup will hold on Sunday 9th February 2020, while the finals of the Low Cup and Majekodunmi Cup holds on Sunday 16th February 2020.

This year, the Lagos International Polo Tournament, themed “Lagos Develops Polo”, aims to encourage the participation of young and indigenous talented players while featuring top-class action from some of the most experienced and acclaimed polo players in and out of the country, including South Africa’s Chris Mackenzie +7, Argentina’s Andres Crespo +5, Raul Laplacette +7 and Santiago de Estrada +6, as well as Nigeria’s Neku Atawodi-Edun +5, the first black female polo player and the highest-handicapped female player at the tournament.

Over the years, GTBank has been at the forefront of supporting Polo; widely revered as the Sport of Kings, and promoting the Lagos International Polo Tournament, which has hosted reputable personalities such as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Played on the grounds of the Lagos Polo Club, Ikoyi, the premier polo club in the country, the tournament has featured polo greats like Alphonso Pieres, Gonzalo Pieres, and Alan Kent.

Commenting on GTBank’s sponsorship of the 2020 Lagos International Polo Tournament, Segun Agbaje, Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, said; “We love the game of polo, not only because it is one of the most anticipated events in the social calendar of the country, but also because its values such as discipline, rigour, and fair play strongly resonates with our brand.

He further stated; “Our sponsorship of the 2020 NPA Lagos International Polo Tournament also reflects our strong belief in the role of sports as a major vehicle of social development and our commitment to championing activities and events that bring people together.”

Guaranty Trust Bank is a leading advocate of Sports Education as a major way of promoting the values of excellence and fair play whilst laying a solid foundation for the emergence of sporting talent. The Bank maintains a defined Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy focused on championing causes and fostering initiatives that transform lives and uplift communities.

Alongside the GTBank Lagos International Polo Tournament, the Bank organizes and sponsors several other sports competitions, one of which is the GTBank Masters Cup; a football competition amongst secondary schools in Lagos State.

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