Mesut Ozil: Why have video games in China removed the footballer?

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil has been removed from Konami's eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2020 and FIFA 2020 video games in China in the wake of his recent comments.

Footballer Mesut Ozil has found himself surrounded by controversy in China and has been removed from both FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) video games in the country.

Removed from FIFA and PES in China

According to the Independent, NetEase, the Chinese publisher for Konami's PES games, announced in a post on social media platform Weibo that the 31-year-old athlete has been removed from the country's versions of PES 2020. "The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media," NetEase 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!"

PES 2020
Mesut Ozil in Konami's PES 2020. Konami

A subsequent report published by Goal.com said the footballer was omitted from EA's FIFA 20 in the country as well in the wake of the controversy. However, when asked for clarification on the matter, a spokesperson for EA maintained that Ozil had not been removed from FIFA titles in China.

Ozil's Uighur Muslim comments spark outrage in China

Ozil, who plays as an attacking midfielder for Arsenal in the English Premier League,shared a controversial post on Twitter last week criticizing the Chinese government's detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China.

Ozil, a Muslim himself, called Uighurs "warriors who resist persecution" and decried China's treatment of the minority in the region, calling for Muslim countries to take action and publicly condemn the issue.

Ozil's remarks sparked a wave of anger in China where Arsenal is hugely popular and fans took to social media to direct their anger towards the footballer, with some even setting his football jersey on fire. China's state broadcaster CCTV also removed Sunday's Arsenal vs Manchester City game from its schedule in the wake of Ozil's comments.

While China's foreign ministry claims that Ozil has been "blindfolded by fake news," the Associated Press published a series of documents last month detailing how China's mass detention camps operate.The report revealed that more than a million Uighur Muslims were being held in internment camps in Xinjiang and China was deliberately locking up and brainwashing Uighurs at the camps and preventing them from escaping.

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