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Former World Cup winner Mesut Ozil retires

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Former World Cup winner Mesut Ozil retires. AFP

World Cup winner Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from football on Wednesday after an illustrious international career with Germany and club spells with Real Madrid and Arsenal.

The 34-year-old helped Germany to glory in Brazil in 2014 but bitterly quit the international scene after the Germans crashed out of the 2018 tournament in Russia.

“After thoughtful consideration, I’m announcing my immediate retirement from professional football,” the attacking midfielder said.

“I’ve had the privilege to be an international footballer for almost 17 years now and I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity.

“But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”

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Ozil, born in the German city of Gelsenkirchen but of Turkish descent, played on some of football’s biggest stages but also became embroiled in international politics and accusations of racism.

When Germany were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stage, a wounded Ozil accused the German public of “racist” attacks.

His club career blossomed when his deft passing and vision helped secure his move from the Bundesliga to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side in 2010.

He soon led La Liga in assists while helping the Spanish club to their 32nd league title in 2012.

His big-money move to Arsenal in 2013 helped the London club end their FA Cup drought the following year.

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In 2014, Ozil started the final as Germany beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 1-0 in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro thanks to Mario Goetze’s extra-time goal.

Ozil was repeatedly shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or but the later stages of his career were troubled by disputes over playing time and his close personal friendship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan was the best man at Ozil’s Istanbul wedding to former Miss Turkey and actress Amine in 2019.

But it was Ozil’s decision to be pictured with Erdogan on the eve of Turkey’s 2018 presidential election that caused particular controversy during that summer’s World Cup.

Erdogan was then unleashing a sweeping political crackdown that followed a failed coup attempt against his government.

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Ozil’s picture with the Turkish leader was widely interpreted as his political endorsement of Erdogan in the 2018 election campaign.

He ended his international career before moving to Fenerbahce and most recently Istanbul Basaksehir.

-AFP

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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