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Turkish footballers repeat military salutes in France match despite UEFA probe

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Turkish footballers repeat military salutes in France match despite UEFA probe
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France has called on UEFA to punish Turkey after several Turkish international footballers again celebrated scoring a goal by making military-style salutes in front of their fans in Paris.

Several players made the controversial gesture – for the second time in a week – during their Euro 2020 qualifier at the Stade de France, after Kaan Ayhan equalised for Turkey in their 1-1 draw with their French opponents.

Politicians across France had taken to social media earlier to call for Monday’s match to be cancelled – after Turkish players performed similar salutes in Friday's victory over Albania following Cenk Tosun’s last-minute goal in Istanbul. UEFA said later that it would examine the incident.

Days earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched military operations against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria after US President Donald Trump suddenly withdrew American troops.

The France–Turkey match went ahead amid high security, given France’s opposition to the Turkish military offensive.

After Ayhan’s goal in the 82nd minute, at least seven Turkish players gathered by the corner flag and made the military salutes with their right arms. The images were not shown live on television. The team repeated the gesture in front of their fans after the match.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Turkey players salute after Kaan Ayhan celebrates scoring their goal - Stade De France, Saint-Denis, France - October 14, 2019REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The French sports minister called on European football’s governing body to take firm action. “The Turkish players spoilt (security efforts) by making a military salute, in conflict with sportsmanship. I demand from UEFA an exemplary sanction,” Roxana Maracineanu wrote on Twitter.

Turkey’s coach Senol Günes said after the match that the gestures had been made in good faith. “It’s just to encourage our soldiers” fighting in northern Syria “not to kill” civilians but to “eliminate violence against Turkish citizens”, he said.

A photo of the Turkish players making the gesture was widely shared on social media, including by President Erdogan and the country’s sports minister, Mehmet Kasapoglu, who was present at the Stade de France.

Earlier, Turkish supporters applauded the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. But towards the end of the match there were scuffles, as a group wearing French football shirts unfurled a banner in front of the visiting fans which read "stop massacring the Kurds". Stewards quickly moved in to remove it.

Watch The Cube's report on the controversy before the France–Turkey match in the video player above.

After Turkey's match against Albania, the official Twitter page for the Turkish national team uploaded a photo showing the playing squad and coaching staff making the same gesture in the changing room.

The photo was accompanied with a caption saying the team had “dedicated their victory to our brave soldiers and fellow martyrs."

#AnnulationMatchFranceTurquie trending

On Monday, a number of politicians used the hashtag #AnnulationMatchFranceTurquie to call for the match between France and Turkey to be called off.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France's populist left-wing party France Insoumise, tweeted that the “basis for sportsmanship” no longer existed.

"If Turkish footballers make military salutes, they should expect to be treated like the soldiers of an enemy army.”

Meanwhile, Jean Christophe Lagarde, leader of the centre-right UDI, also said that “the Turkish football team has unfortunately broken the border that must separate sports from politics.”

The office of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would no longer be attending Monday’s match, as was previously planned.

French President Emmanuel Macron has widely condemned Turkey for its military action in Syria, saying that it could lead to a humanitarian crisis.

But Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a member of the National Assembly from President Macron’s party En Marche! tweeted that calls for the match to be cancelled would not solve the situation in Syria.

“Sport and football in particular have always been a space for protest and political affirmation.”

However the leader of France's far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, took to social media to say that Turkish players had “flouted the values of sport”.

"It is time for UEFA to sanction this political drift of the Turkish Football Federation!"

National Rally spokesman Jordan Bardella added that it would be “unthinkable” for Turkish players to perform the same military salute on French soil.

UEFA investigation to be announced

UEFA, football’s European governing body, are reportedly investigating following the gesture made by Turkish players against Albania.

UEFA media spokesperson Philip Townsend told Italian news agency Ansa that he had not personally seen the gesture but it "could be considered a provocation."

"Does the regulation prohibit references to politics and religion? Yes, and I can guarantee you that we will look at this situation."

And speaking to Euronews, a UEFA spokesperson said that any disciplinary action would be announced after the completion of all European Championship qualifier games this week.

Article 16, 2 (e) of UEFA regulations prohibit "the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature".

The 1–1 draw in Paris leaves France and Turkey tied on 19 points at the top of Group H, with Turkey ahead based on their 2-0 win over France in June.

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