Recall that Bukayo Saka missed the last spot-kick of the tournament which ended England’s hope of lifting the European Championship for the first time in the history of football in the country.
After the miss, some English fans took to social media to urge him to return to Nigeria, his parents’ country and made other racial comments against him.
During that period, many who came out to defend the 19-year-old English-born footballer argued that Saka is seen as an Englishman when he is doing well and racially abused when he makes mistakes.
This line of argument was synonymous to the argument Mesut Ozil made when he decided to cut short his time with the German national team in 2018.
Recall that he retired from international football after Germany’s woeful outing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Then, the former Arsenal star who now plays for Süper Lig club Fenerbahçe, said he had to leave the national team because he was always subjected to racism whenever he didn’t perform to expectation.
The 32-year-old former German international who played for the country between 2009 and 2018, came up with the line that he is always a German when he performs well, and an immigrant when he doesn’t. Since then, Mesut Ozil has tried to be more associated with his place of origin, Turkey.
Hence, Ozil’s case is similar to that of Saka even though Saka started suffering racial attacks very early in his international football career. Recall that Saka made his debut for England on October 8, 2020.
Before the Euro 2020 final on July 11, the 19-year-old Arsenal winger was seen as one of the best things in English football. But his critics did not overlook his costly penalty miss in the final.
He, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho who missed their spot-kicks were not given breathing space after Italy ended English fans’ dream of seeing the Three Lions of England lift a major football title for the first time in 55 years.
Like Sancho and Rashford, Saka had issued an apology on social media for the penalty miss but he insisted that the racial attack against him would not break him as a footballer and as a person.
In line with such an encouragement, Mesut Ozil who played with Saka between 2019 and 2020 urged the youngster to remain humble and determined.
“I felt very much for Bukayo,” Ozil told Sky Sports. “I know from my own experience how it feels to miss a penalty.
“In a final, as the last one, to take on the responsibility of an entire nation as a young player – respect. Not many players would dare to do that…
“There will always be people who racially abuse and scapegoat people of different backgrounds and skin color when they lose…
“Unfortunately there will always be a small part of our community that racially insults and threatens players.
“We should focus much more on the positive messages that keep players strong…
“Bukayo is blessed with a talent that not many have. If he remains as humble and determined as he already is, I am a hundred percent convinced that he has a great future ahead of him and can become a great player.
“He’s really a great talent, and I’m sure that there are going to be many more big matches for the English national team for him in the future.”
Since Mesut Ozil left Arsenal and joined Fenerbahce for free on January 25, 2021, he has managed to make just 11 appearances in all competitions. His contract with the Turkish side will expire on June 30, 2024.