Mesut Ozil's name will be blacklisted forever by Chinese state broadcasters

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Mesut Ozil has been one of the main beneficiaries of Mikel Arteta's appointment.

Having been frozen out under Unai Emery, the playmaker has been given a new lease of life in recent weeks.

That was epitomised in Arsenal's 2-0 victory over Manchester United, with Ozil covering more kilometres than any of his teammates.

A statistic like that would have been unthinkable a few months ago. In fact, it was the most he had run in a single game in over two years.

Yet while the former Germany international has been experiencing a revival on the pitch, off it he has had political problems to contend with.

The 31-year-old recently spoke out against the Chinese state's treatment of Uighur Muslims following a UN report.

It was claimed that a million Uighurs were being kept in interment camps, with Ozil also discussing reported burnings of Mosques and The Quran.

His comments caused uproar in the Far East, with Arsenal games subsequently removed from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Ozil was also removed from the Chinese release of Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2020.

Arsenal refused to back him, not least because of commercial fears. Indeed, the row shows no signs of going away with The Times now citing Chinese insiders who believe Ozil will be blacklisted forever.

Even when he scores, his name will not be mentioned.

Commentators have already begun blanking the midfielder, totally ignoring his presence on the pitch in the Boxing Day 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.

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Then, in the 2-0 win against United at the Emirates, only 10 players were mentioned in the hosts' line-up.

TV operators originally planned to ditch Arsenal games altogether and did so in their defeat to Manchester City on December 15, which was removed from scheduling.

They have since decided - according to an anonymous Chinese source quoted in the same report - that they needed to better "balance their commercial interests and the political risks" and will therefore "continue airing Arsenal matches in a low-key way with Ozil ignored".

Ozil can also no longer be searched for on search engines in the country - any such request is met with an error message. There have also been images circulating on social media berating him, with one doctored picture showing him stamping on the Chinese flag.

Unfortunately, such a long-term vendetta may well deter other footballers from speaking out and may explain why it's so rare to hear from elite athletes on social issues. 

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