By Andrew Warshaw in Munich
September 6 – Germany begin the task of rebuilding their battered reputation tonight but could not have chosen tougher opponents for the first game since their worst World Cup for 80 years.
France, who took over Germany’s mantle as world champions this summer, are the visitors to Munich for both teams’ inaugural Nations League fixture at a sold-out Allianz Arena.
But one player conspicuous by his absence will be Mesut Ozil having quit after protesting he had been made a scapegoat for Germany’s group-stage exit in Russia following his infamous photo session with Turkish president Recep Erdogan.
Loew says he has tried to contact the Arsenal midfielder, who has Turkish roots, several times without success and will try again next week. But for a clarification chat, not to ask Germany’s former playmaker to change his mind.
“Everything has been said (about him),” said an exasperated Loew told news conference. “He was a really important player for us but he said he won’t be coming back.”
“I don’t know why we should we keep talking about it. He was part of the team for a long time but not any more. For this team it’s over. He’s no longer part of our routine.”
Loew dismissed any suggestion of racism in German football.
“There has never been any form of racism in our team, so it’s not a topic at all. The DFB are against any sort of racism or discrimination, and we have followed this approach for years.”
Loew was supported by German team manager Oliver Bierhoff who stressed integration was ingrained in Germany’s football psyche.
“Of course we made some mistakes (in dealing with the Ozil affair), we undervalued the situation,” Bierhoff told a group of international reporters visiting Munich to learn about the country’s 2024 European Championship bid. “But we tried to talk to him and didn’t get an answer, so I don’t know what is going on in his mind.”
Bierhoff said it was important “to show the world” that the country is unified in the wake of the Özil racism row, which has been given particularly poignant significance since Germany’s sole opponent for the 2024 bid is the country of Özil’s descent.
“That’s the reason why we have to get the European Championship in 2024, to show this country is different,” Bierhoff said. “Of course you never get everything the right way, but the majority of people in Germany are different. We have to show this.”
“Hopefully we as a team can show our values, show sport is a good tool to also work against racism.”
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