Özil removed from Pro Evolution Soccer game in China

Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Southampton FC at Emirates Stadium on November 23, 2019. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal football player Mesut Özil has been removed from the eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2020 game in China, following the controversy over his comments about the country’s Uighur Muslims.

Reuters reports that Chinese firm NetEase, which publishes PES in China under franchise from game creator Konami, said in a statement on Weibo yesterday: “The German player Özil posted an extreme statement about China on social media. 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.”

Özil, a Muslim of Turkish descent, posted messages on social media last week criticising China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry this week said Özil had been deceived by ‘fake news’ about the treatment of the minority, and invited him to Xinjiang where they live to see for himself that the region is peaceful and harmonious.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo weighed in on the debate yesterday, tweeting that “China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail”.

NetEase said that Özil would be removed from the three existing PES titles in China, including PES 2020 Mobile.