Gliding through space, warping time, wrapping his left foot around the ball with all of the elegance that befits a van Gogh masterpiece. That is Mesut Ozil at the peak of his powers. However, every now and then, a man blessed with divine faculties transcends this soporific tale of human existence and flirts with perfection – a realm reserved solely for the Gods.
That was Mesut Ozil, on the 22nd night of October in 2018.
Down in the trenches
For some time now, the German national of Turkish descent has been in the headlines of dailies for reasons having nothing to do with his qualities on a football pitch or, more recently, the lack of it. But for the sole reason that he is a German national of Turkish descent. When the politics of fear and isolation has such a stranglehold on the rest of the world, how can the world of football breathe easy?
The unpalatable intermingling of faith and sport brought out the worst in us and it was Mesut Ozil who was shunned by the very people he helped see the Promised Land. What ought to feel like heaven, proved only to be a mirage in the scorching heat of the desert – his own trying to erase the footsteps he’d made in the sands of time.
But when you’ve head aloft the holy grail of the beautiful game, wearing the badge of your country on your heart, it takes a certain something to leave it all behind and walk away. Yet, Mesut Ozil found it in him.
He called out the hypocrisy of those who questioned him and their sinister motives. Those he stood alongside all those years, shoulder to shoulder, deserted him and drew arms against him. Mesut Ozil was cast out of his own country.
The vicious mindset of the perpetrators of these personal attacks on Mesut Ozil is the real danger to our way of life. And sadly it finds resonance in the mindset of many around the world who seek to live or die only for those like them.
In this universe of unbound staggering diversity, I wish the best of ‘the living’ would take a leaf out of the unscripted laws of nature. Instead, we choose to surround ourselves with our walls, wrap ourselves in our dynamite and cover ourselves with racially skewed, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-freedom, theocratic, extremist, self-entitled unfounded glory.
Unfortunately, this time, It was a sportsman who bore the brunt of it.
In the realm of Perfection
How do you then, prove your worth? Recover some of that lost dignity, overcome the humiliation? Save face?
You let your football do all the talking.
In a performance that I’m bound to revisit in my dreams, the Arsenal talisman turned on the style obliterating Leceister City who will likely have nightmares of a Mesut Ozil in full-flight, in all his glory, for some time to come.
It wouldn’t be a vintage ‘Ozil’ performance if he didn’t go missing for a bit, and sure, even on the night he did in the first period of the game – only a couple of, just as vintage, drops-of-the-shoulder of note.
But as the first half drew to a close, he’d hit his stride, and equalized for Arsenal without breaking it. A counter-attack he helped initiate, signed off with the lazy-elegance of a Mesut Ozil finish. That proved to be only the prologue to a sublime performance in the second forty-five.
A resounding chorus of ‘Hail to the Chief’ ought to have blared in the background at the Emirates, as Arsenal’s tormentor-in-chief, and the captain on the night, conjured up a breath-taking, defence-splitting pass to set Hector Bellerin free down the right wing, who layed it on a plate for Aubameyang to put Arsenal ahead. A pre-assist worth the entry fee alone.
And he wasn’t closed to done yet. What followed was worth every single penny of that £42.5 million transfer fee that Arsenal paid for his services. A move that rivals some of the most scintillating team goals that the faithful has witnessed over the years – the one against Tottenham at White Hart Lane back in 2004 or even the ones more recently against Sunderland and Norwich City – Unai Emery’s men pieced together some magical football to find the back of the net a third time; Ozil at the heart of it.
An audacious flick to allow Guendouzi to find Iwobi, then an even more audacious dummy to let the ball roll through to Lacazzete and make the run inside for him to play it back to the German, followed by the most audacious dink over the keeper to find Aubameyang who set Arsenal flags soaring into the London night-sky, along with the Arsenal spirits.
Simply magical. Simply radical. Simply Mesut Ozil.
Dreams come true. Sometimes, in the most glorious rendition possible.