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Mbappé warns of 'catastrophic' situation in France as politics take centre stage at Euro 2024

 French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Kylian Mbappe next to head coach Didier Deschamps in Paris, June 3 2024
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Kylian Mbappe next to head coach Didier Deschamps in Paris, June 3 2024 Copyright AP/Sarah Meyssonnier
Copyright AP/Sarah Meyssonnier
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AP
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France's players have been vocal at Euro 2024 with calls to get out to vote in parliamentary elections. The England team, not so much.

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France and England are gearing up for the quarter-final showdown at Euro 2024, as France play Portugal on Friday, while the Three Lions face Switzerland on Sunday.

Both teams are playing right in the middle of crucial parliamentary elections. Voting is already underway in Britain, while the French are heading to the polls for the runoff of the legislative elections on Sunday.

However, the two teams have had radically different approaches towards their respective political situations, with the French being way more vocal than the English players.

French captain Kylian Mbappé warned on Thursday that his country was in a "catastrophic” political situation as it lurched closer to the first far-right government since World War II.

The National Rally made strong gains - around 33% of the vote nationwide - in the first round of a rushed election, leaving Marine Le Pen’s party poised to potentially gain power.

“I think now, more than ever, you need to get (out to vote),” said Mbappé, who was speaking in Hamburg ahead of the game.

“It is an urgent juncture. We cannot let our country fall into the hands of these people. It is pressing - we saw the results, it is catastrophic.”

Mbappé made a similar call earlier at Euro 2024 when he said, “the extremes are knocking on the door of power.”

Defender Jules Koundé was another player to come out, saying he was “disappointed to see the direction our country is taking” in comments on Monday.

President Emmanuel Macron called the snap election after a defeat at the hands of the National Rally in European Parliament elections last month, gambling that the far-right would not repeat its success in a domestic ballot.

France's players have been asked regularly about the political situation back home during news conferences at Euro 2024.

French winger Ousmane Dembele said, “the alarm bell has been sounded,” and fellow forward Marcus Thuram went further, saying the French people “need to fight daily so that ... the National Rally does not succeed.”

Striker Olivier Giroud also called on people to get out and vote.

England's John Stones plays darts against a journalist before a press conference in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, July 4, 2024
England's John Stones plays darts against a journalist before a press conference in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, July 4, 2024 AP/Thanassis Stavrakis

English players keep voting intentions 'close to their chest'

“Politics-free zone” was defender John Stones' verdict on the England camp on Thursday as the Brits headed to the polls for their general election.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ’s Conservatives are widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party.

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Stones was happy to discuss England's quarterfinal game with Switzerland - but admitted he had no clue about his teammates' voting intentions.

“I couldn’t tell you about the other lads. I’m sure it’ll be something that’ll get brought up tonight, later on, but I couldn’t tell you who they vote for. They keep it close to their chests," he said.

England will be facing off with Switzerland at 18.00 on Saturday in Düsseldorf.

Erdoğan expected at Turkey game after 'Grey Wolves' row

Although no election is underway in Turkey, the team are embroiled in a diplomatic controversy with host country Germany.

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Turkey are playing against the Netherlands at 9 pm in the other quarter-final on Saturday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cancelled a trip to Azerbaijan to be in Berlin and support the players after a row sparked by a controversial political gesture made by a player in Tuesday's game with Austria.

After scoring his second goal, Turkey's Merih Demiral made a sign with each hand, which is recognised as a symbol of Turkish nationalism as it is associated with the ultra-nationalist organisation Ulku Ocaklari, widely known as the Grey Wolves.

Turkey's Merih Demiral celebrates after scoring his side second goal during a round of sixteen match between Austria and Turkey
Turkey's Merih Demiral celebrates after scoring his side second goal during a round of sixteen match between Austria and TurkeyAP/Ebrahim Noroozi/Copyright 2024

UEFA opened an investigation into the player's "alleged inappropriate behaviour".

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The disciplinary move came after the call for sanction by Germany's interior minister Nancy Faeser, who said on X that "the symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place" in the country's stadium.

Later on Wednesday, in a series of retaliatory moves, Turkey summoned the German ambassador before Germany reciprocated on Thursday.

Demiral described his gesture as something related to his "Turkish identity, because I’m very proud to be Turkish.”

The Gray Wolves group was founded as the youth wing of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party, which is currently in an alliance with Erdoğan's ruling party.

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The group has been banned in France, while Austria has banned the use of the Grey Wolf salute, and Germany keeps their activities under scrutiny.

Nationalist gestures and displays by both players and fans have made the headlines several times at Euro 2024, with UEFA imposing tens of thousands of euros in fines on several countries, including Croatia, Albania and Serbia.

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