This story was updated on 3 November following Mainz terminating Anwar El Ghazi’s contract.
Mainz banned Dutch winger Anwar El Ghazi two weeks ago for his controversial post about Israel and Gaza.
On Monday, the Bundesliga club announced that the 28-year-old would return to training after being given a warning but expressing regret for the spot. But El Ghazi says he has no regrets and that he was misinformed by the club.
Mainz have now sacked El Ghazi.
This is partly a negotiation of who owns what. But with players taking a stand on the highly charged conflict in the Middle East, it has wider implications for the way football is viewed.
What is El Ghazi really about?
On Sunday, October 16, El Ghazi wrote on Instagram accusing Israel of committing “genocide” in Gaza following the killing of 1,400 soldiers and civilians by Hamas in Israel on October 7.
The last line reads, “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.”
El Ghazi deleted the post shortly after it was posted.
How did Mentz react at first?
The German club suspended him on October 17 after speaking to the player and his representatives.
In a statement, Mainz acknowledged there were “different views” on the Middle East conflict but declared El Ghazi’s posting “intolerable” and “incompatible with the club’s values”.
What did they mean by that?
According to legal experts, “from the river to the sea” is a sentence that can be prosecuted in Germany for “crime” or “hate speech”. The American Jewish Committee defines the phrase as anti-Semitic, because it can be interpreted as a call to destroy the Jewish state.
On Wednesday, the English FA – which has no mercy on Elghazi – said it would consult with police on other players using the stadium in connection with the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
Mainz particularly attracted anti-Semitism because one of its founders, Eugen Salomon, was a German Jew who was killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz in 1942.
Their fans have widely supported the club’s decision to ban El Ghazi. At a game against Bayern Munich a week ago, fans waved a banner declaring “solidarity with all victims of Islam and anti-Semitism” and called the October events “anti-Semitic terror by Hamas”.
But they asked for “peace for the people of Gaza”.
What was Elgazi’s response?
Following further talks with the club last week, El Ghazi condemned the “killing of all innocent civilians in Palestine and Israel” in a post.
He added that he was “determined to be a peaceful and integrated Middle East region” and stood for “peace and humanity for all”.
A source in Germany with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Athletic that he had asked Mains El Ghazi to make a video apologizing.
The club declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic.
What happened next?
According to reports in England, Mentz decided to dismiss El Ghazi for his serious misconduct at the end of last week. But on Monday afternoon, before the end of the 14-day contract deadline for the footballer to be sacked for misconduct, Mains El Ghazi said he would be released with an “official warning” and allowed to return to training and match-day activities. After showing “regret” for his work and commitment to the club’s values.
“El Ghazi has distanced himself from the post he wrote on his Instagram account, which he deleted minutes later after several discussions with the club,” the club’s statement read.
“He regrets publishing the post and regrets the negative impact. El Ghazi dissociated himself from the terrorist acts committed by Hamas two weeks ago. He expressed his condolences to the victims of the attack and to all citizens affected by the conflict. He also said that he does not question Israel’s right to exist.”
Mainz added that the player has reminded him of the club’s code of values, which is “a special responsibility to the State of Israel and the Jewish people, not just because of past events in German history, but from a shared history.” (of Mainz) founding members and member of the Jewish community, Eugen Salomon”.
How did El Ghazi respond?
The player issued another message on Wednesday morning saying that the statements and apologies given by Mainz were “factually incorrect” and “unauthorized”.
He is against “war and violence”, “killing all innocent citizens”, “all forms of discrimination”, “Islamophobia”, “anti-Semitism”, “apartheid”, “against occupation” and “against oppression”.
In addition, he has no “regret or remorse” for his authority and “no specific responsibility for any government,” adding that “there is no reason for the killing of 3,500 children in Gaza in the last three weeks.” He said. His post ended with a call to “stop the killing in Gaza.”
— Anwar El Ghazi (@elghazi1995) November 1, 2023
How did Mainz respond?
“Mainz cannot understand and are surprised by Anwar El Ghazi’s statement,” the club said on social media on Thursday afternoon.
The club added that they would “investigate the facts from a legal point of view” and that the forward had taken sick leave.
They have now moved to terminate the contract. The statement issued on Friday evening: “1. FSV Mainz 05 have terminated the contract of Anwar El Ghazi with immediate effect on Friday. The club took this step in response to the player’s comments and messages on social media.
How did El Ghazi react when his contract was terminated?
He took to Twitter and posted the quote, “Stand up for what’s right, even if it means standing alone.”
“Losing my livelihood is nothing compared to the hell that has happened to innocent and vulnerable people in Gaza,” El Ghazi added.
(Top photo: Getty Images)