Turkey says Demiral ban for Euros 'wolf' salute is unfair

Turkey says Demiral ban for Euros 'wolf' salute is unfair
UEFA on Friday suspended Demiral for two matches because of his celebration after scoring the second goal in the 2-1 win over Austria .
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Turkey's defender #03 Merih Demiral attends a training session at the team's base camp in Barsinghausen on July 5, 2024 [Getty]

Turkey defender Merih Demiral will miss his team's Euro 2024 quarter-final against the Netherlands after UEFA banned him for two games on Friday for making a ultra-nationalist salute, a move Ankara blasted as "unfair and biased".

Demiral scored both of Turkey's goals in the 2-1 last-16 win over Austria on Tuesday and during celebrations for his second goal made a gesture associated with Turkish right-wing extremist group Grey Wolves.

UEFA said in a statement it was banning Demiral "for violating the basic rules of decent conduct, for using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature and for bringing the sport of football into disrepute".

Should Turkey overcome the Dutch on Saturday, Demiral would also miss the semi-final against England or Switzerland.

Turkey's Sports Minister Osman Askin Bak claimed the ban was politically motivated.

"We condemn UEFA's unfair and biased decision, which has no legal basis and that we consider to be purely political," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Demiral has said his celebration was related to his "Turkish identity".

The 26-year-old former Juventus defender, now at Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, insisted there was no "hidden message" in the salute.

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Demiral posted a photo of his celebration on X with the caption "How happy is the one who says 'I am a Turk'."

His gesture has triggered a diplomatic row between Turkey and Euro 2024 host nation Germany, where an estimated three million Turks live.

Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser warned "the symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums".

Turkey then summoned the German ambassador on Wednesday over politicians' reactions to Demiral's celebration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attend the quarter-final at the Olympiastadion in the German capital, which tens of thousands of Turks are expected to attend.

Erdogan himself has said Demiral was just "showing his excitement" and several ministers and the spokesman of his ruling AKP party have condemned Faeser's reaction.

Accusations of xenophobia

The Grey Wolves advocated radical ideas and used violence in the 1980s against leftist activists and ethnic minorities.

The group has been banned in Austria and France, but not in Germany.

Germany's Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir said Wednesday "nothing about the wolf salute is hidden".

Ozdemir, one of the most prominent German politicians with Turkish roots, said the symbol "stands for terror (and) fascism".

The Grey Wolves were labelled "a terrorist organisation" by the European Parliament in 2021 and "especially threatening for people with a Kurdish, Armenian, or Greek background and anyone they consider an opponent".

Accusing German authorities of "xenophobia", Turkey's foreign ministry pointed out that Germany's domestic intelligence service had emphasised in its report "not every person making the grey wolf sign can be described as a far-right extremist".

Demiral's goals helped Turkey reach the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since 2008.

With such a large Turkish disapora in Germany, the team has enjoyed heavy backing across the country for its Euro 2024 matches.

Berlin police have said they will deploy more officers than usual for Saturday's quarter-final, which is considered a "high-risk game".

Germany's capital is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey, many of them the descendants of "guest workers" invited under a massive economic programme in the 1960s and 70s.