Mesut Ozil says he felt the pain suffered by Bukayo Saka after missing a penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat and has urged the youngster to stay strong following the racist backlash he received.
The versatile winger was one of three England players to miss in the shoot-out loss to Italy on July 11, along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were also racially abused on social media.
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s save from Saka’s spot-kick was the decisive moment in the match, which finished 1-1 after extra time, as England fell to a 3-2 defeat on penalties at Wembley.
Ozil, who played alongside Saka for two seasons at Arsenal before joining Fenerbahce in January, believes the 19-year-old deserves praise for stepping up and taking a penalty in such a pressurised environment.
“I felt very much for Bukayo,” he told Sky Sports News. “I know from my own experience how it feels to miss a penalty.
“In a final, as the last one, to take on the responsibility of an entire nation as a young player – respect. Not many players would dare to do that.”
Speaking last week, Saka said he will not be broken by his Euro 2020 final penalty miss and the subsequent vile messages as he called on social media bosses to do more to tackle problem users.
But former Arsenal playmaker Ozil fears that such abuse will never be completely eradicated.
“There will always be people who racially abuse and scapegoat people of different backgrounds and skin colour when they lose,” he said.
“Unfortunately there will always be a small part of our community that racially insults and threatens players. We should focus much more on the positive messages that keep players strong.”
— Bukayo Saka (@BukayoSaka87) July 15, 2021
Saka has featured regularly for Arsenal over the past two seasons and was used four times for runners-up England at Euro 2020, starting three matches.
“Bukayo is a modest young player,” Ozil added. “I have gotten to know him as a very determined young man who works very hard for his dream and does everything he can to achieve it.
“Bukayo is blessed with a talent that not many have. If he remains as humble and determined as he already is, I am a hundred per cent convinced that he has a great future ahead of him and can become a great player.
“He’s really a great talent, and I’m sure that there are going to be many more big matches for the English national team for him in the future.”