German Soccer Star Is the Groom. Turkey’s President Is the Best Man.

In a photo provided by his office, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, second right, serves as best man at the wedding of the German-born soccer star Mesut Ozil, center, and Amine Gulse, a former Miss Turkey, in Istanbul on June 7, 2019. Born in Germany to immigrants from Turkey, Ozil became one of Germany’s most popular soccer stars before quitting the national team, citing anti-immigrant sentiment. (Presidential Press Service via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH NYT STORY TURKEY BY SCHUETZE FOR JUNE 08, 2019. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. --

Christopher F. Schuetze

c.2019 New York Times News Service


BERLIN — Mesut Ozil, the German soccer star who quit the national team last year after a photograph of him posing with the Turkish president unleashed a political storm, married a former Miss Turkey on Friday on the banks of the Bosporus.

His best man? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Ozil, who has Turkish roots, said in March that he had asked Erdogan to be his best man. In Germany, the decision was immediately criticized as “irresponsible” and “disappointing.” Many pointed to the furor last year after the athlete posed for a picture with Erdogan, who was running for reelection at the time.

But Erdogan and his wife, Emine Erdogan, attended the ceremony on Friday and took photographs with the bride and groom. The president also gave a speech denouncing birth control.

Born in Germany to immigrants from Turkey, Ozil became one of Germany’s most popular soccer stars. Many saw him as a symbol of modern German soccer and, by extension, a more diverse nation. But he abruptly quit the national team in the face of harsh criticism, first over his meeting with Erdogan and then for his performance in Germany’s embarrassing early exit from the 2018 World Cup.

In a series of social media posts announcing his resignation, he alluded to feeling punished for his family history, accusing German soccer officials, the news media and fans of blaming him for the team’s failure.

Ozil, who now plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League, was on the German national team for more than a decade, and had a major role in its 2014 World Cup victory.

“I’m a German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he wrote.

The details of Ozil’s lavish wedding to Amine Gulse, a Swedish-born model who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2014, were closely followed in Germany.

On Saturday, the tabloid Bild ran an article about the wedding that mentioned the Turkish president, but also the expense and pageantry of the ceremony.

The wedding reception was officiated by Istanbul’s governor and acting mayor, Ali Yerlikaya, an honor bestowed on prominent figures in society. According to local news reports, it was held at the Four Seasons hotel, a 19th-century palace on the shores of the Bosporus in Istanbul that is one of the most expensive venues in Turkey.