German soccer star is Groom. Turkish president is Best Man

Mesut Ozil, the German soccer star who quit the national team last year after a photograph of him posing with the Turkish president unleashed a political storm, married a former Miss Turkey on Friday on the banks of the Bosporus, according to Nytimes.com.

His best man? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
Mr. Ozil, who has Turkish roots, said in March that he had asked Mr. Erdogan to be his best man. In Germany, the decision was immediately criticized as “irresponsible” and “disappointing.” Many pointed to the furor last year after the athlete posed for a picture with Mr. Erdogan, who was running for re-election at the time.

But Mr. Erdogan and his wife, Emine Erdogan, attended the ceremony on Friday and took photographs with the bride and groom. The president also gave a speech denouncing birth control.
Born in Germany to immigrants from Turkey, Mr. Ozil became one of Germany’s most popular soccer stars. Many saw him as a symbol of modern German soccer and, by extension, a more diverse nation. But he abruptly quit the national team in the face of harsh criticism, first over his meeting with Mr. Erdogan and then for his performance in Germany’s embarrassing early exit from the 2018 World Cup.
In a series of social media posts announcing his resignation, he alluded to feeling punished for his family history, accusing German soccer officials, the news media and fans of blaming him for the team’s failure.

Ozil, who now plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, was on the German national team for more than a decade, and had a major role in their 2014 World Cup victory.

“I’m a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he wrote.
Many had already been asking whether he should be on the national team at all. In May 2018, just weeks before the World Cup began, Mr. Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan, another teammate with Turkish roots, met Mr. Erdogan in London, where he was campaigning for re-election that would solidify his grip on power. Mr. Gundogan eventually distanced himself from the pictures, but fans of Mr. Ozil argued that the meeting was not about politics but about national identity and paying respect to a head of state.
The photographs led to a debate on integration, racism and sports, and about how much loyalty nearly three million Turkish-Germans had to the Erdogan government. It also prompted a wide-ranging discussion about the everyday racism that immigrants face in Germany.
The details of Mr. Ozil’s lavish wedding to Amine Gulse, a Swedish-born model who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2014, were closely followed in Germany. But Mr. Erdogan’s proximity did not appear to cause the outrage it did in 2018, as many Germans appeared to have given up on the idea that the midfielder would ever rejoin the national team.

On Saturday, the tabloid Bild ran an article about the wedding that mentioned the Turkish president, but also the expense and pageantry of the ceremony.
In March, when Mr. Ozil first announced that he had invited the Turkish president, Helge Braun, the minister who oversees the chancellery, said: “It does make one sad. I think it disappoints a lot of football fans; it certainly disappoints me.”
Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin politician with Palestinian roots, said in a Twitter post then that she had defended Mr. Ozil’s decision to quit the team, but found his decision to invite Mr. Erdogan to his wedding “irresponsible.”

Mr. Erdogan used the nuptials to reaffirm his conservative values, warning against the so-called perils of birth control, which he has described as treasonous to his country.
“One remains desolate, two competes with each other, three provides balance, four brings richness, the rest remains to God,” Mr. Erdogan said in his televised remarks, drawing a chuckle from the couple and their guests.

“For years they called for birth control in this country, unfortunately, and attempted to cause our generation to become extinct,” Mr. Erdogan said.
Mr. Erdogan and his wife, who was a witness at the wedding, stayed for an hour, according to the private news agency Demiroren.

The wedding reception was officiated by Istanbul’s governor and acting mayor, Ali Yerlikaya, an honor bestowed on prominent figures in society. According to local news reports, it was held at the Four Seasons hotel, a 19th-century palace on the shores of the Bosporus in Istanbul that is one of the most expensive venues in Turkey.

The couple made a hefty donation to the Turkish Red Crescent to aid war victims and refugees, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The aid organization said it had used the donation to feed about 15,000 refugees from northern Syria.
Some German news outlets wrote of the wedding and its presidential guest with a sense of loss, regret and dismissiveness.

Writing in the national weekly Die Zeit, Oliver Fritsch said of Mr. Ozil, “For him, the celebrity guest with whom he adorns his marriage ceremony and his life means little more than another Mercedes sports coupe or Hermès belt.” (Agency report)

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