Mesut Ozil issue 'exhausting' but Germany players understand decision to quit - Manuel Neuer
Germany captain Manuel Neuer has said Mesut Ozil's decision to retire from international competition is his own choice and that the team needs players who are "proud" as they look to bounce back from their World Cup exit.
Ozil announced last week that he would not play for Germany again amid claims of racist treatment by the German football federation (DFB) and its president, Reinhard Grindel. He did not claim racism within the Germany squad.
"It's a decision made by each player," Neuer, one of the few players to have spoken about the situation, told reporters at Bayern Munich's training camp.
"The reasons are something to find for yourself, and he found them. We, of course, accept that decision."
Ozil's announcement came more than two months after he and teammate Ilkay Gundogan, who have Turkish roots, had their photo taken with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in London in mid-May.
"It was a lot back and forth, and a lot was talked and written about it," Neuer said. "This issue -- after Germany's exit -- was one that was very exhausting for those who read everything."
Neuer said Ozil, who earned his first cap in 2009, was never subjected to racism by teammates during the World Cup.
"We have always tried to integrate all players," Neuer said. "We did everything for our teammates so everyone could go into the games with a good feeling."
Bayern forward Thomas Muller said on Friday that the debate surrounding Ozil's withdrawal was "hypocritical" and "carried by media."
The Germany international said the DFB "wanted nothing but the discussion to end," but the media did not stop reporting it and made "a big deal out of it."
"There can be no talk of racism in sports and in the national team," Muller said, calling for an end to the discussion.
Despite strong criticism, the German football hierarchy -- Grindel, general manager Oliver Bierhoff and coach Joachim Low -- have refused to accept personal responsibility for Germany's worst World Cup performance.
Neuer said it was time for a new beginning and a new spirit in the team, adding that it was the DFB's job to "restructure the team and give it a face again."
"It's about having players again who indeed are proud to play for the national team and give it their all for their own country so that we will return to winning ways," he said. "It's a fact that a lot of things need to be changed."
Low has yet to address Germany's World Cup performance, but has said he will do so at the end of August. His side face World Cup winners France in the opening game of the UEFA Nations League in Munich on Sept. 6.