Mertesacker refutes Germany race division amid Ozil retirement storm

The ex-Nationalelf centre-back feels that media reports are wide of the mark, while adding that his long-time team-mate may have gone overboard

Former defender Per Mertesacker has played down reports of racial division amongst the German national team amid suggestions that Die Mannschaft were split into two camps during the 2018 World Cup. 

Mertesacker's comments, of course, come in the wake of Mesut Ozil pulling out of the national fray after allegations of racism from within the DFB and the German media.

A recent report in Spiegel's print edition stated that the World Cup squad was split in two during their time in Russia with 'potatoes' – the stereotypically German players – on one side, and 'kanaken' – a derogatory German word for those with immigrant backgrounds – on the other.

Mertesacker, however, does not believe that there is any truth to the alleged division, especially during his own time working under Joachim Low.

“I never heard anything about 'potatoes' or 'kanaken' during my time in the national team,” Mertesacker told Bild. “However I have been called 'potato', too.

“It should be understood that it is just a bit of fun, however. There were separate groups within the team during my time, too. 

“You simply have to be careful that this does not lead to division, like: 'you are one team, we are the other'.”

And while Mertesacker is saddened by his long-term team-mate's decision to pull out of the Germany squad, he feels that a return is possible – even if he thinks the playmaker's allegations were overstated.

Merstacker potato GFX

“Everything is possible,” Mertesacker said. “I am curious as to how the DFB is going to approach the building of a new team.

“I never experienced racism or discrimination during my time, so I was surprised by Mesut's allegations and that they were so harsh.

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“Mesut and I played together at Werder Bremen and Arsenal for so many years. There is no other player that I shared so much time with. We were important for each other.

“I'm sad about what happened. We had a special relationship, no matter how different we are.”

Germany, who have been accused of spectacularly missing Ozil's point, appear unwilling to reopen a dialogue from their side with the ostracised Arsenal star.