Mesut Ozil: Ex-Arsenal star tells Bukayo Saka to stay strong against racism after England shootout loss | Football news

Former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil said Bukayo Saka deserved respect for stepping up in England’s final penalty shootout loss to Italy and urged the teenager to stay strong in the face of racism.

Saka missed the decisive penalty and suffered racist abuse on social media after the game with team-mates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were also unable to convert on the spot.

Former Arsenal playmaker Ozil sympathized with Saka for his grief on penalties and offered his support to the 19-year-old in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News.

England's Kalvin Phillips and Luke Shaw comfort their team-mate Bukayo Saka after failing to score a penalty in a penalty shoot-out after extra time in the Euro 2020 Football Championship final match between England and Italy in Wembley
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England’s Kalvin Phillips and Luke Shaw comfort their teammate Bukayo Saka after failing to score a penalty

“I felt a lot for Bukayo,” Ozil said. “I know from my own experience what it feels like to miss a penalty.

“In a final, like the last, to take responsibility for an entire nation as a young player – respect. Few players would dare to do that.”

Ozil, who played for Germany between 2009 and 2018, retired from international football citing racist abuse.

Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho missed penalties in England's shootout loss
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Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho missed penalties in England’s shootout loss

At the time, he tweeted: “I’m German when we win, but I’m an immigrant when we lose” – a message which has been echoed by many in response to racist abuse targeting young black players in England.

The 32-year-old says the problem isn’t going away.

“There will always be people who will racially abuse and scapegoat with different backgrounds and different skin colors when they lose,” he added.

When asked if he had any advice for the Saka, Sancho and Rashford, Ozil said: “Unfortunately, there will always be a small portion of our community that will racially insult and threaten players.

“We should be focusing a lot more on the positive messages that keep players strong.”

Bukayo Saka was one of three England players to be targeted for racist abuse on social media after Euro 2020 final
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Bukayo Saka was one of three England players targeted for racist abuse on social media after Euro 2020 final

Ozil and Saka played together at Arsenal for two seasons before the former moved to Fenerbahce. Speaking after preseason training in Turkey, Ozil recalled meeting his former Gunners teammate.

“Bukayo is a modest young player. I got to know him as a very determined young man who works very hard for his dream and does everything he can to make it come true.”

Ozil is convinced that Saka has the ability and the state of mind to overcome his setback with England and play a vital role in the future of the Three Lions.

“Bukayo has a talent that not many people have,” Ozil said. “If he remains as humble and determined as he already is, I am one hundred percent convinced that he has a great future ahead of him and that he can become a great player.

“He’s a really great talent, and I’m sure there will be a lot more great matches for the England national team for him in the future.”

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