Europe

Euro 2020: Uefa probes Turkey footballers' military salute

Turkey players saluting, 11 Oct 19 - Cenk Tosun is second from left Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cenk Tosun, second from left, scored the winning goal in Istanbul

Europe's football governing body Uefa says it will investigate a military salute given by Turkey footballers after Everton star Cenk Tosun scored a goal against Albania.

Turkey's 1-0 win in Istanbul came on Friday, amid Turkish army clashes with Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Tosun posted the salute photo on Instagram, with the message: "For our nation, especially for the ones who are risking their lives for our nation."

Uefa does not allow political gestures.

The win keeps Turkey at the top of its group in the Euro 2020 qualifying matches.

On Wednesday Turkey launched a major offensive in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Dozens of civilians and fighters have been killed on both sides.

On Instagram, the Turkish Football Federation also posted an image of the Turkey players and trainers saluting in the dressing room, along with the message:

"At the end of the road lies the championship! After seven matches we continue our leadership in the Euro 2020 Qualifying Group H. We give this win to all our hero soldiers."

Uefa spokesman Philip Townsend told Italian news agency Ansa the Turkish salute "could seem like a provocation".

"I can guarantee that we will examine this situation, let me check," he said.

Turkey's military push is now overshadowing the Euro qualifying match between France and Turkey, set for Monday evening in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had planned to go, but has now cancelled his attendance.

And in a tweet, an MP for the centre-right UDI party, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, said: "How can one allow a football match to become a political petition in support of an army invading another country and massacring civilians who are our allies!?"

Players delete their likes

Uefa's disciplinary rules 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".

Two Turkish-origin internationals who play for Germany - Ilkay Gundogan and Emre Can - posted likes in response to the Instagram photo of Tosun and his saluting team-mates. But Gundogan and Can later removed them.

Gundogan and Can both explained why they had deleted their Instagram likes at the weekend.

"Believe me, after what happened last year, the last thing I wanted was to make a political statement," Gundogan said.

Can told the German daily Bild: "I am an absolute pacifist and against all forms of war."

In May 2018 Gundogan - a Manchester City star - and Mesut Özil of Arsenal were criticised by the German Football Federation (DFB) for posing in photos with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

And the football world body Fifa fined three Switzerland players after they made Albanian nationalist gestures in a World Cup match against Serbia in June 2018.

The "double eagle" gesture is a sign of solidarity with Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia in 1999.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, both of Kosovar origin, each received a warning and a fine of 10,000 Swiss francs (about £8,000; $10,050). Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner was fined 5,000 Swiss francs for joining in.

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