Former German international footballer Mesut Özil was married in İstanbul on Friday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as his best man, AFP reported.
The 30-year-old Özil, who has Turkish family roots, sparked controversy last year when he was photographed with Erdoğan, raising questions about the footballer’s loyalty to Germany on the eve of their disastrous 2018 World Cup campaign.
The Turkish leader arrived in the early evening for Friday’s ceremony at a luxury hotel on the banks of the Bosporus to see the former Arsenal midfielder marry his fiancee, former Miss Turkey Amine Gülşe.
A smiling Erdogan and his wife Emine were seen standing next to the young couple as their marriage was formalized.
After 92 appearances for Germany, including a key role in the 2014 World Cup victory, Özil suddenly quit the national squad last July, accusing German football officials of racism.
Özil has dated Gülşe since 2017, and the couple announced their engagement in June 2018.
The footballer, a third-generation German, whipped up a political storm when he was pictured alongside Erdoğan last May.
Criticism intensified after the red-faced defending champions crashed out of the first round of the World Cup in Russia.
In the wake of the World Cup fiasco, Özil announced his resignation from the national squad, saying, “I am German when we win, an immigrant when we lose.”
Erdoğan often attends marriages in Turkey of celebrities, whom he particularly seeks out during election campaigns.
His presence at Özil’s marriage comes ahead of a mayoral election in Istanbul on June 23, required after the original voting in March was annulled following a narrow victory for the main opposition Republican People’s Party.