Ex Arsenal manager defends Ozil over Uighur Muslims comment

DOHA: Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has defended Mesut Ozil after comments made by the Gunners midfielder condemning treatment of Uighur Muslims led to a stinging backlash in China.

Freedom of speech

“Mesut Ozil has the freedom of speech like everybody else and he uses his notoriety to express his opinions which are not necessarily shared by everybody, but he has the right to do that,” Wenger told journalists in Doha on Wednesday.

“You are a human being, you have an opinion, and then when you play football you play football. You do your job first and you have to respect that.”

MS Education Academy

Ozil, a German of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang in a tweet last week.

In response, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV pulled its coverage of Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City last weekend.

Arsenal have distanced themselves from Ozil’s comments, but Chinese state media warned that they would have “serious implications” for his club. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced China’s reaction over the matter.

“What is important is that Ozil has an individual responsibility. He does not carry the word of Arsenal Football Club, so what he says is about himself and not about Arsenal,” added Wenger, who oversaw Ozil’s arrival at the Emirates Stadium from Real Madrid in 2013.

You accept the consequences

However, the Frenchman added: “When you make a comment about your individual opinion, you accept the consequences of it.”

Wenger, now 70, is in Qatar — where this week’s Club World Cup is taking place — in his new role as FIFA‘s Chief of Global Football Development.

However, he continues to monitor goings-on at his old club very closely and admits to being saddened by Arsenal’s current travails.

Wenger departed in May 2018 after 22 years in charge and his successor, Unai Emery, was sacked late last month. Former player Mikel Arteta is believed to be close to becoming the next manager.

Arsenal are currently 10th in the Premier League, seven points adrift of the Champions League places.

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