German president meets Özil, Gündoğan over controversial visit with Erdoğan

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This handout photo made available by the German government press office shows Germany President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (R) speaking with Mesut Ozil (C) and Ilkay Gundogan (L) of the German World Cup squad after a meeting at Bellevue palace in Berlin on May 19, 2018. Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan met Germany president Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a series of clear the air talks following their controversial photos alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. / AFP PHOTO / Bundesregierung / Guido Bergmann

Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier after a visit they made to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in London on May 13 sparked controversy in Germany.

President Steinmeier sent a photo from the meeting to his Facebook feed, stating that “it was important to both of them to clear up the misunderstandings.”

Steinmeier also shared that the two footballers consider Germany their country and home.

During a trip to London, Özil and Gündoğan, German international footballers of Turkish heritage, visited Erdoğan and gave him jerseys from their teams. “With respect for my president” was written Gündoğan’s shirt.

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel on May 15 said the visit might have caused misunderstandings since they were German national football team players and role models for German youth.

Turkey is heading to a presidential election on June 24.

According to Reuters, in an effort to clear the issue up, Özil and Gündoğan later contacted German coach Joachim Löw, who said the German president wanted to meet with the footballers.

German Football Association (DFB) President Reinhard Grindel said the players assured him they had not intended to become involved in a political message.

“They also stated that they stand for our values on and off the pitch and that they identify with them,” Grindel said.

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