'I will always be Turkish' - Why Ozil is worshipped in Istanbul

The Real Madrid star opted to represent Germany over the country of his descent but still enjoys a good standing within the nation, ahead of his trip to Turkey on Tuesday night
By Yasin Madyb Ilgun

With a clash between Turkey and Germany in Berlin finely poised at 1-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining, Mesut Ozil raced onto a through-ball and calmly slotted the ball home, prompting a chorus of boos from the away fans.

It would be easy to assume that Ozil was despised by the nation of his descent due to his decision to represent the Nationalelf but the Real Madrid star has a dedicated group of admirers within Turkey who have tracked his career since his early days.

After leaving Westfalia 04 as a child amid fears of his ability to compete physically, he eventually made his debut with Schalke. Three good seasons with the Gelsenkirchen outfit won him a move to Werder Bremen and the question of his nationality began to rear its head.
'Turks' who never played for Turkey

Scholl (born Yuksel) was a brilliantly gifted midfielder, winning Euro '96 for Germany and a host of trophies with Bayern.
A Swiss hero, Yakin made 87 appearances for his country, representing them at four tournaments.

A move from Nurnberg to BVB saw him called up for Germany, the "hardest decision of his life".

Ozil can count himself among the finest players Germany have produced. A star for club and country.

The combative midfielder made his name in Switzerland before moving to Serie A. Now captain of his country.

Unfortunately for the Turkish public, though, he elected to represent the country of his birth, Germany, at full international level having enjoyed a glittering career with the Nationalelf's youth ranks.

Naturally, his decision was met with disappointment but his reasons seemed justified. "I was born and raised in this country. I was successful with their Under-21s and I feel good here. I chose Germany for that reason. There's no reason why I wouldn't be successful with them."

Despite his ambitions with the three-time World Cup winners, he remains respectful to Turkey: "My family and I will always be Turkish but I was born and I live in Germany. I feel more comfortable in a Germany shirt."

When the two countries were pitted against one another in qualifying for Euro 2012, he openly admitted that it was something of a nightmare scenario for him. He said: "I didn't want a match in Euro 2012 qualification with Turkey. My will is for both teams to feature in the finals."

Indeed, when he scored against the Milli Takim in Berlin, he didn't even break into a smile. He accepted Thomas Muller's celebrations but ambled begrudgingly back to the halfway line, almost disheartened that he had scored.

When the time came for the reverse fixture, coach Joachim Low left him out of the first team, citing injury, and as Germany cruised to a 3-1 victory, the camera repeatedly panned to Ozil, who remained ashen-faced throughout, despite claims among the Turkish media that he was feigning injury to avoid playing them.

While those rumours could have soured his relationship with Turkey, he remains a frequent visitor to the country, fondly recalling childhood memories of visiting family, talking of his relationship with "compatriots" Hamit Altintop and Arda Turan, even meeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who made a state visit to Madrid in November.

And the respect he has shown has won him many fans in the nation. Children idolise him due to his heritage and people are proud to have one of their own as a regular at a club the size of Madrid, something which Ozil himself appreciates.

"I think that the Turks are proud of me," he said in 2011. "I have experienced the respect that they have shown for me, and many people accept and respect my decision to play for Germany."

With los Blancos in Istanbul on Tuesday to face Galatasaray in the Champions League, he has another chance to impress in front of a Turkish audience. With the tie effectively over after the first leg, not many would begrudge him a goal.