Mesut Ozil says he felt the pain Bukayo Saka suffered after missing a penalty in the final Euro 2020 defeat in England and urged the youngster to stay strong after the racist backlash he received.
The versatile winger was one of three English players to miss in the penalty loss to Italy on 11 July, along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were also racially abused on social media.
Gianluigi Donnarumma’s save from Saka’s penalty was the defining moment of the match, which ended 1-1 after extra time, with England losing 3-2 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 pressured environment.
“I’ve heard a lot for Bukayo,” he told Sky Sports News. “I know from personal experience what it feels like to miss a penalty.
“In a final, like the last, taking responsibility for an entire nation as a young man: respect. Not many players would have the courage to do so. “
Speaking last week, Saka said he won’t be broken by his latest Euro 2020 penalty and subsequent vile messages as he called on social media bosses to do more to address problem users.
But former Arsenal playmaker Ozil fears such abuses will never be completely eradicated.
“There will always be people who racially abuse and scapegoat people of different backgrounds and skin colors when they lose,” he said.
“Unfortunately there will always be a small part of our community that will insult and threaten players in a racist way. We should focus much more on positive messages that keep players strong. “
– Bukayo Saka (@ BukayoSaka87) July 15, 2021
Saka has appeared regularly for Arsenal over the past two seasons and has been used four times for England second at Euro 2020, starting three matches.
“Bukayo is a modest young player,” added Ozil. “I have come to know him as a very determined young man who works very hard for his dream and does everything he can to make it happen.
“Bukayo is blessed with a talent that not many have. If he remains humble and determined as he already is, I am 100 percent convinced that he has a great future ahead of him and can become a great player.
He is truly a great talent and I am sure there will be many more great England matches for him in the future.