Arsenal star Mesut Özil and former Miss Turkey Amine Gülşe tied the knot at the Four Seasons Hotel on the banks of the Bosphorus last Friday in a picturesque ceremony. The couple have dated since 2017, announcing their engagement in June 2018. And yet, someone else was to hog the limelight.
Secular weddings in Turkey require a legal witness and being one such wedding, who would the couple turn to? That someone turned out to be Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine. “Of course, marriage is a long journey,” said Erdogan in his speech. “There are good days, there are bad days. Happiness multiplies when it is shared. And of course negativity turns to happiness when dealt with patiently. In this regard, I believe these two qualified young people will navigate this process in the best way and will lead a happy life.”
The unlikely friendship between Erdogan - a man considered a dictator by most of the West - and the Arsenal star - who is of Turkish descent - is quite well known. This is not the first time the two have been photographed together either - Özil was in the eye of the storm last May too, censure which climbed to a crescendo with Germany crashing and burning in the first round of the FIFA World Cup, with even his loyalty to the German team being brought into question. After the incident, Özil called it quits on his national career, citing racism. “I am German when we win, an immigrant when we lose”, he had said.
The decision sparked outrage in Germany, with Helga Braun, Chief of Staff for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, quoted as saying that Erdogan's presence as a witness "makes one sad".
Erdogan has been at Turkey's helm since 2003, through a 2016 coup and an ever-worsening economic crisis. Having played semi-pro soccer in his youth, he has been seen to build affable relations with athletes of Turkish descent and attend celebrity weddings, while also lashing out at those who criticize his regime.