UEFA Suspends Turkey’s  Merih Demiral Over Controversial Gesture

UEFA Suspends Turkey’s  Merih Demiral Over Controversial Gesture

UEFA has suspended Turkey’s player Merih Demiral for two matches for making a controversial gesture during the European Championship, an incident that has ignited a diplomatic row between Turkey and Germany.

The suspension rules Demiral out of Turkey’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands on Saturday, and the semifinal, should Turkey advance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to attend Saturday’s game, having cancelled plans to visit Azerbaijan in order to support the team.

UEFA stated it banned Demiral “for failing to comply with the general principles of conduct, 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.”

Demiral scored both goals in Turkey’s 2-1 win over Austria on Tuesday, securing their place in the quarterfinals, and celebrated with a hand sign linked to an ultra-nationalist group.

After scoring the second goal, he made a sign with each hand that is used by Turkish nationalists and associated with the Turkish ultra-nationalist organisation Ulku Ocaklari, also known as the Gray Wolves.

Demiral defended the gesture, claiming it was an innocent expression of national pride and expressing hope for “more opportunities to do the same gesture again.”

The gesture was condemned by German interior minister Nancy Faeser and other German politicians, prompting a harsh rebuke from Turkish authorities and the summoning of the German ambassador.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticised UEFA’s investigation as a politically motivated reaction “to the use of a historical and cultural symbol” and accused German authorities’ statements about Demiral’s gesture of containing xenophobia.

UEFA launched its investigation into Demiral’s gesture on Wednesday. The Turkish side had until Friday to present their case. There has been no immediate reaction from the Turkish football association to the ban.

Demiral was previously one of 16 Turkey players reprimanded in 2019 for making military-style salutes during games while the country was conducting a military offensive in Syria.

The Gray Wolves group was founded as the youth wing of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is currently allied with President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

In the decades following its founding in the 1960s, the group has been accused of involvement in politically motivated violence, mostly against leftist groups.


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