Germany Warns Fans as Turkish Media Stokes Fervor Ahead of Match

(Bloomberg) -- Saturday night’s Turkey-Netherlands Euro 2024 quarter-final has the potential to be a powderkeg as German police warned fans and Turkish media stoked nationalist zeal.

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Germany’s police union urged the thousands of Turkish supporters expected to be on hand in Berlin to abstain from making a controversial, nationalist hand gesture during the match.

“Politics has no place on the field,” union chairman Jochen Kopelke said in a statement. The match is “high risk” and presents “particular police challenges,” he added.

UEFA, the football tournament’s organizing body, suspended Turkey’s Merih Demiral for two games after he made the “gray wolf” hand gesture after scoring a goal against Austria on July 2.

The sign is associated with supporters of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which is allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s leader scrapped a planned visit to Azerbaijan after the UEFA move, and will instead watch the game from the stadium in Germany.

‘We’re All Turks’

Many Turkish newspapers focused on the controversy on Saturday, with Istanbul’s Hurriyet condemning what it called the “UEFA gang.” The sports newspaper Fanatik urged Europeans to “salute” Turks, while FotoMac published an image of a snarling wolf on its front page.

UEFA said it suspended Demiral “for violating the basic rules of decent conduct, for using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature, and for bringing the sport of football into disrepute.”

The player said his gesture didn’t imply a political message. “We’re all Turks in Turkey and I’m proud of being one,” he said. “That’s why I did it.”

Erdogan also defended the 26-year-old center-back, saying: “Is anyone questioning why Germans have the eagle on their jerseys? Is anyone mentioning the rooster on the French jersey?”

Demiral’s gesture prompted condemnation by German leaders, including interior minister Nancy Faeser. “Using the European football championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable,” Faeser said in a post on X.

Turkey then summoned the German envoy. Agence France-Presse reported that Germany reciprocated on Thursday.

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