Arsenal’s German playmaker Mesut Ozil’s likeness has been removed from the Chinese iteration of the popular Pro Evolution Soccer video game franchise following his criticism of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
Ozil railed against the alleged persecution of the Muslim group on social media, with many of the more than 1 million population of the Turkic-speaking Muslims understood to be interned in high security prison camps, and also stating that his fellow Muslims should do more to highlight their plight.
Arsenal star Mesut Ozil spoke out about "persecution" in internment camps for Muslims in China. In response, Chinese state TV canceled broadcast of an Arsenal game.
The UN says 1M+ mostly Uighur Muslims have been held in the camps, where groups report abuse and torture. pic.twitter.com/a4uHno0ra9
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 16, 2019
However, Chinese authorities accused Ozil of peddling ‘fake news’ and said that he was ‘hurting the feelings’ of Chinese football supporters due to his outspoken comments.
The tale took another twist when on Wednesday it was announced by NetEase, the Chinese publishers of the popular Pro Evolution Soccer series, that Ozil’s character was being removed from the game.
“Mesut Ozil has freedom of speech like everyone else and he uses his notoriety to express his opinions, which are not necessarily shared by everybody,”
“The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media,” they said in a statement.
“The speech hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace. We do not understand, accept or forgive this.”
Arsenal, meanwhile, say they remain apolitical while their former manager, Arsene Wenger, stated on Tuesday that Ozil was well within his rights to make the comments.
Read more: US moves to highlight Uighur Muslims plight
“Mesut Ozil has freedom of speech like everyone else and he uses his notoriety to express his opinions, which are not necessarily shared by everybody,” the former Gunners boss said.
“What’s important is that Ozil has an individual responsibility. He doesn’t have to carry the word of Arsenal Football Club. When you make a comment about your individual opinion you accept the consequences of it.”
China’s opposition to Ozil’s statement was also noted by their state broadcaster’s decision to drop a scheduled broadcast of Arsenal’s Premier League fixture with Manchester City last weekend.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk.