UEFA suspends Turkish player Merih Demiral for 2 matches over nationalist gesture at Euro 2024

BERLIN (AP) — UEFA on Friday suspended Turkish player Merih Demiral for two matches for a violation of the rules. controversial hand gesture at the European Championship, an incident that led to a diplomatic row between Turkey and host country Germany.

Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz condemned the decision as unacceptable and called for “correction”.

“The excitement and beauty of football should not be overshadowed by political decisions,” Yilmaz said.

The suspension means Demiral will not be able to invite his team to the quarter-final against the Netherlands on Saturday, nor to the semi-final if Turkey advance.

After scoring his second goal in Turkey’s last-16 win over Austria, Demiral made a gesture with both hands used by Turkish nationalists and associated with the Turkish ultra-nationalist organisation Ulku Ocaklari, better known as the Grey Wolves.

Demiral had said it was an innocent expression of national pride and that he hoped he would “have more opportunities to make the same gesture again.”

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and other German politicians condemned this, leading to a stern reprimand from the Turkish authorities and the summoning of the German ambassador.

UEFA has suspended Demiral “for failing to comply with the general rules of conduct, violating the basic rules of decent behaviour, using sporting events for events of a non-sporting nature and bringing football into disrepute.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will attend Saturday’s match in Berlin, said before the decision that the 26-year-old defender had merely expressed his “excitement” after his goal against Austria.

The Turkish Football Federation has not yet immediately responded to the ban, but according to Turkish media, the federation will appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Omer Celik, the spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling party, criticized UEFA’s ban as an “extremely wrong decision,” suggesting the umbrella organization had been swayed by the influence of “certain pressure groups.”

“UEFA’s decision has cast a shadow of political influence over football,” Celik wrote on the social media platform X.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the decision “has reinforced the view that there is an increasing tendency in certain European countries to act with prejudice against foreigners.”

Demiral was previously one of the 16 Turkish players reprimanded in 2019 for giving military salutes at games while the country was conducting a military offensive in Syria.

The Grey Wolves group was founded as a youth wing of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The party is currently in an alliance with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party.

In the decades following its founding in the 1960s, the group was accused of involvement in politically motivated violence, particularly against left-wing groups.


Suzan Fraser, an Associated Press editor in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.


AP EC 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

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