ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey accused Icelandic officials on Monday of showing disrespect to its visiting soccer team, after players said they were kept waiting at passport control for three hours and had their bags searched.
Turkish social media users joined in the criticism and demanded Iceland identify a man who, apparently as a joke, approached the players at arrivals and thrust a dish-scouring brush in their faces, mimicking the TV microphones around him.
Turkey’s team, fresh from its defeat of World Cup Champions France on Saturday, flew into Keflavik airport near Reykjavik overnight ahead of a Euro 2020 qualifying match against Iceland on Tuesday.
The players described their treatment to Turkish TV crews waiting outside. “The disrespect shown to our national team in Iceland is unacceptable and what is necessary will be done,” President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter.
“Our national team will give the best response on the field,” he added.
The complaint was echoed by foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the spokesman of Erdogan’s ruling AK party and other officials. Turkey’s embassy in Oslo sent a diplomatic note to Iceland’s government protesting at the “disrespect” shown to the team.
There was no immediate comment from Iceland’s government or foreign ministry.
Omar Smarason, head of media and marketing at the Football Association of Iceland, said all passengers from “non-certified” airports received similar checks. Iceland’s players went through the same procedure when they arrived home from Turkey’s Konya airport five years ago, he added.
The man with the brush was shown on Turkish TV filming himself with a mobile device as his approached the players with his mock microphone.
Turkish social media users responded with indignation, and graphics showing the Icelandic flag with a brush taking the place of the vertical bar of its red cross.
The hashtag #TurksAreComingForIceland trended on Twitter in Turkey.
Turkey upset France with a 2-0 win in Konya on Saturday.
It is currently leading Group H, followed by France then Iceland, which beat Albania 1-0 at home on Saturday.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Daren Butler; Additional reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdynia and Jakob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Andrew Heavens)