In Brief

Arsenal star Mesut Ozil is airbrushed from Chinese TV

German playmaker faces a ‘permanent blacklisting’ in China

Mesut Ozil may be playing his best football in years since Mikel Arteta took over as Arsenal head coach but his rejuvenation has been overlooked in China. 

According to The Times, the German is “facing a permanent blacklisting in China” after he went public last month with his criticism of the way China is treating the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region. 

A Muslim himself, Ozil’s comments sparked a furious reaction among many of his four million social media followers in China, with several burning his shirts in protest.

Initially, Chinese television pulled its coverage of Arsenal’s game against Manchester City on 15 December, and although they have continued to broadcast the Gunners’s matches, commentators are “deliberately not mentioning his name”.

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Ban still in place

Given the way that Ozil has thrived in recent matches, that must be a challenge for commentators. 

According to The Times he was not namechecked once on the PPTV streaming channel despite his stunning performance in the 2-0 win against Manchester United on New Year’s Day. That included omitting his name when announcing the line-ups before kick-off. 

At least PPTV is showing Arsenal’s games, unlike state broadcaster CCTV, where the ban is still in place.

Blanked

The Times says that Ozil will be “blanked forever” for having dared criticise the Chinese regime, and it appears he is already being airbrushed from the internet. 

If the playmaker’s name is typed into a Chinese internet search engine the response is an error message, although there are some anti-Ozil memes doing the rounds, with one a doctored photograph showing Ozil “with his foot on a flag of China”.

The Times quotes a Chinese football specialist (who wished to remain anonymous) explaining that: “As a commercial money-making body, PP Sports have to balance their commercial interests and the political risks. So they have chosen what they think is the best strategy: continuing airing Arsenal matches in a low-key way with Ozil ignored.” 

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