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Euro 2024: Turkey's hero Merih Demiral suspended for two games after nationalistic gesture

England's Jude Bellingham, left, and. Merih Demiral, Turkey, right
England's Jude Bellingham, left, and. Merih Demiral, Turkey, right Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AP
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He's going to miss a crucial quarter-final against the Netherlands on Saturday evening as well as a potential semifinal.


UEFA has announced it's hitting Turkish player Merih Demiral with a two-game suspension after a controversial celebration at Euro 2024 and the diplomatic row it sparked.

Demiral helped his team reach the quarter-finals thanks to a crucial brace in the tournament's round of 16 game against Austria on 2nd July.

However, while celebrating his second goal, he mimicked a sign associated with the Turkish ultra-nationalist organisation Ulku Ocaklari, AKA the Gray Wolves.

Throughout the decades, they have been accused of involving in politically motivated violence, mostly against leftist groups. The group is banned in France and remains under tight scrutiny in Germany.

Turkey's Merih Demiral celebrates after scoring his second goal against Austria in a Euro 2024 round of 16
Turkey's Merih Demiral celebrates after scoring his second goal against Austria in a Euro 2024 round of 16AP/Ebrahim NoroozI

Turkey top politicians rush to defend Demiral

The player claimed his gesture was an innocent expression of national pride.

He quickly got the backing of top Turkish authorities, staring with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said the 26-year-old defender had merely expressed his “excitement”.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also weighed in, saying the decision "reinforced the view that there is an increase in the tendency to act with prejudice against foreigners in certain European countries.”

Omer Celik, the spokesman for Erdoğan's ruling party, slammed UEFA's ban as “an extremely wrong decision.” He suggested that the governing body had bowed to the influence of “certain pressure groups.”

President Erdoğan has cancelled a trip to Azerbaijan to attend Turkey's Saturday game against the Netherlands in Berlin at 21.00.

Following the suspension, Demiral won't be allowed to play, and will also miss a potential semi-final.

UEFA keeps tough stance on political gestures

UEFA confirmed it's not going to soften its stance on players who bring politics onto the field.

Another player at Euro 2024, Albania's striker Mirlind Daku, was handed the same two-game ban after chanting anti-Macedonian and anti-Serbian chants.

The decision of Europe's football governing body on Demiral came after Germany's interior minister Nancy Faeser harshly condemned his gesture.

She wrote on X: "The symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums. Using the European Football Championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable. We expect UEFA to investigate the case and consider sanctions."

Following her statement, Turkey summoned Germany's ambassador in Ankara on Wednesday.

Germany then swiftly retaliated by summoning the Turkish ambassador to Berlin on Thursday.

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