The midfielder’s name appeared then disappeared from a list of candidates published by local outlets
Turkish-German footballer Mesut Ozil may be running for election in Türkiye next month, the Haber7 news outlet reported on Sunday. Although Ozil was rumored to be planning a career in politics, the story was subsequently deleted.
The article stated that Ozil’s name appeared on the candidate list of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP party, German tabloid Bild reported. However, the article has since been deleted, and Ozil’s name is nowhere to be found on candidate lists published by Haber7 and other Turkish outlets.
Ozil retired from professional football in March, citing “long-term injuries” sustained in the preceding weeks and months. Born and raised in Germany, Ozil played for the German national team from 2009 to 2018, playing a pivotal role in the team’s World Cup victory in 2014. His club career brought him from Werder Bremen to Real Madrid to Arsenal to Fenerbahce, before finishing at Istanbul Basaksehir, a club dubbed ‘Erdogan FC’ for its ties to the president.
After the 34-year-old announced his retirement, Turkish media began running reports suggesting that Ozil would run for parliament from his hometown of Zonguldak in northern Türkiye. Erdogan fueled these rumors with a recent announcement that some “surprising names” would be running as AKP candidates, including one from the world of sport, Bild reported.
Ozil has been close to Erdogan for years, with the president acting as best man at the footballer’s 2019 wedding. A year earlier, Ozil was heavily criticized in Germany after posing with Erdogan for a photograph, and retired from international competition on account of the controversy.
Polls open in Türkiye in little over a month and Erdogan is seeking a third term in office. Although he managed to shore up support following an attempted coup in 2016, Erdogan is now facing an electorate dealing with stubbornly high inflation and a steadily weakening currency, coupled with an economic and humanitarian disaster following last month’s earthquake near the southern city of Gaziantep.
Opinion polls show Erdogan and opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu within single digits of each other, and the pro-Erdogan People’s Alliance bloc within two points of the opposition National Alliance.