Germany ‘s Mesut Ozil will not be fazed if he encounters a barrage of vitriol when he faces Turkey in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Istanbul.
Real Madrid’s Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen in the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley and, despite his Turkish roots, opted to play for Germany in 2007, when he was called into the Under-21 team.
Along with former Bayern Munich star Mehmet Scholl, who also played for Germany in the 90s, Ozil, who started his career at Schalke 04, is one of few players of Turkish origin to wear the white shirt of Germany.
Germany has 1.8 million Turks living here, plus 700,000 Germans of Turkish origin.
Many players with Turkish roots, who learn the game in Germany later opt for the red and white jersey of Turkey, including midfielders Hamit Altintop and Nuri Sahin, who are both now on Real Madrid’s books.
On Wednesday, a sore Achilles tendon kept Ozil from training, but he is hopeful of playing.
Ozil was widely whistled and jeered by Turkish fans when Germany hosted Turkey at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in October 2010, but the Real play-maker says he is unfazed by the prospect of a chilly reception in Istanbul.
“I think the Turks are proud of me,” he told German magazine Kicker.
“At the same time, many people accept and respect my decision to play for Germany.
“It is quite possible that people will whistle me again, but that doesn’t bother me.
“I can only stay professional in that situation and shut it out, that is what I did in the first game in Berlin.”
Nearly every time Ozil touched the ball against Turkey in Berlin a year ago, he was greeted with loud boos and jeers and one poignant placard from Turkish fans read: “We could have been cheering for you, Ozil!”.
The Germany star had the last word when he scored a superb individual goal in the 79th minute as part of a 3-0 victory, but said his celebrations will be subdued again if he scores in Istanbul.
“I wasn’t ashamed of my goal against Turkey, no,” he said.
“But of course, I have respect for the people, for the country, and of course it was an emotional moment for me.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I am always calm after scoring a goal.
“I don’t want to appear insensitive.”
Ozil was key in securing Germany’s place at Euro 2012 when he scored in the 6-2 rout of Austria in his home town of Gelsenkirchen at the start of September which gave the Germans their eighth straight win in qualifiers.
Often held up as a symbol of integration in Germany, a picture of Ozil shaking hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the dressing room in Berlin after the win over Turkey got plenty of newspaper coverage.
The photo of the bare-chested footballer, still sweating from the game, shaking hands with Germany’s leader, who is always quick for a photo-opportunity in a football scene, sparked an integration debate here.
“I’ve framed a copy of the picture with the German Chancellor and it’s on the wall in my living room in Spain,” said Ozil.
Ozil made a big impact at last year’s World Cup in South Africa as Germany finished third, but coach Joachim Loew had already identified his potential as a fleet-footed game-breaker.
Alongside Bayern winger Thomas Mueller, Ozil benefited from Loew’s changing of Germany’s formation from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 with a single striker, Lazio’s Miroslav Klose or Bayern’s Mario Gomez, up front.
Victory in Istanbul would give Germany their ninth straight win in qualification and with Loew’s team set to face Belgium in Duesseldorf next Tuesday, the Germans could well finish their campaign with the ‘Perfect 10’.