The footballer Mesut Özil has become embroiled in a new political row in Germany over reports he asked Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, to be guest of honour at his wedding.
The Arsenal star resigned from the German national team last year claiming he was a victim of racism after coming under fire over his public support for Mr Erdoğan .
German politicians spoke out after he was pictured with his fiancee, Amine Gulse, meeting Mr Erdoğan at Istanbul airport last week.
“The fact this is still going on will disappoint a lot of football fans, including me,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told reporters. Bild, Germany’s highest-selling newspaper, carried reports of the wedding invitation on its front page.
Last year’s extraordinary political row which culminated in one of Germany’s biggest football stars quitting the national team began when Özil and Ilkay Gündoğan, another player of Turkish descent, posed for photographs with Mr Erdoğan in London.
Several Germans were being held in Turkey at the time as part of the regime’s crackdown on opposition and press freedom, and the footballer’s decision to pose alongside the Turkish president caused widespread public anger in Germany.
Many blamed the controversy for Germany’s poor performance in the World Cup, and Özil subsequently announced his retirement from the national team on Twitter, writing: “If we win, I’m German. If we lose, I’m an immigrant."
A third-generation German whose grandparents immigrated from Turkey, Özil defended his decision to pose with Mr Erdoğan as “respecting the highest office of my family’s country”.
He announced his engagement to Ms Gulse, a former Miss Turkey, earlier this year.
“Everyone can invite whoever he likes to his wedding, and of course this also applies to Mesut Özil,” said Cem Özdemir of the Green Party, Germany’s highest-profile politician of Turkish heritage.
“But both current and former national players are role models and must ask themselves whether they live up to that role if they indulge autocrats who enrich themselves at the expense of their country and make their opponents disappear in dungeons. I think that is inappropriate.”