China's state-run TV network CCTV has decided to take tonight's Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City off its broadcast schedule. The move came in the wake of massive backlash received by Arsenal player Mesut Ozil, in connection with a social media post he made on Friday.
Taking to his Instagram and Twitter accounts, Ozil shared a lengthy message in Turkish. According to a summary shared by the BBC, the German, who is a Muslim, criticised China in connection with the situation being faced by the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. He called Uighur Muslims "warriors who resist persecution."
A large bulk of his message is also directed at fellow Muslims. He is questioning why so many Muslim countries and media are staying neutral or completely silent about the alleged persecution that is taking place against Uighurs in China.
China's national English language newspaper, Global Times, announced on Twitter that CCTV will no longer broadcast Arsenal's match. They also said that online broadcaster PPT may also choose to follow suit. Global Times also called Ozil's comments "false." As a result, he has "disappointed Chinese fans and football governing authorities."
Upon checking the comments on Ozil's Twitter post, it appears that while he received a lot of support, there are in fact a lot of comments which criticise his statements.
"For your future,don't talk about politics and religion," said Twitter user Leaze Nagaharu. Meanwhile, others called Ozil a supporter of terrorism. The comments section has turned into a debate between opposing views. Many agreed with Ozil and said that his statements were "true," contrary to what Global Times said.
Meanwhile, Arsenal Football Club has washed its hands of the controversy. In a statement that is circulating in Chinese social media site Weibo, the club said that "Arsenal is always apolitical as an organisation."