Several leading French politicians have called for France’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Turkey in Paris to be called off after Turkish players enacted a military salute in Friday’s victory over Albania.
The gesture came days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an incursion into Syria to drive Kurdish forces away from the border, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all remaining American forces out of northern Syria.
The salute was made following Cenk Tosun’s stoppage-time winner against Albania in Istanbul, which maintained Turkey’s place at the top of Group H.
After the match, the official Twitter page for the Turkish national team uploaded a photo showing the entire squad and coaching staff making the same gesture in the changing room, with the caption saying the players “have dedicated their victory to our brave soldiers and fellow martyrs.”
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France’s populist left-wing party France Insoumise, tweeted: “If Turkish footballers do the military salute, they must expect to be treated as the soldiers of an enemy army. So we do not play football against them. The basics of sportsmanship are no longer there!”
Meanwhile, Jean Christophe Lagarde, leader of the centre-right UDI, said: “With this military salute, the Turkish football team has broken the border that must separate sports from politics. We cannot welcome with decency at the Stade de France tomorrow those who salute the slaughter of our Kurdish allies.”
Melenchon and Lagarde included the hashtag #AnnulationMatchFranceTurquie, while leader of France’s far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, tweeted: “Being the platform of #Erdogan’s propaganda, whose actions in #Syria worry the international community, the Turkish football team has flouted the values of sport.
“It is time for UEFA to sanction this political drift of the Turkish Football Federation!”
The Turkish Football Federation was not immediately available for comment.
The President of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, reportedly said the music of the Marseillaise — France’s national anthem — will be loud enough to drown out any boos or whistles from the visiting Turkish supporters.
On Saturday, France — along with Germany — announced it would be halting the sale of arms to Turkey following the country’s incursion into Syria.
Around 3,800 Turkish fans are expected at a sellout 78,000 capacity Stade de France for Monday’s match. On Turkey’s last visit to France in 2009, the match had to be temporarily halted after visiting fans threw flares and projectiles onto the pitch.
In further fallout from the incident, German Football Association director Oliver Bierhoff said that Germany duo Ilkay Gundogan and Emre Can had “made a mistake” liking Tosun’s Instagram post of the striker performing the salute.
“For our nation, especially for the ones who are risking their lives for our nation,” read Tosun’s post, which is still on his profile.
Gundogan and Can both have Turkish roots and promptly removed their likes on the post after causing a storm on social media.
“I am absolutely a pacifist and against all forms of war,” Can said after Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifying win over Estonia.
Gundogan added: “I can only stress again that there was no political intention behind it. I wanted to congratulate a friend (Tosun) for the goal and the victory.”
Meanwhile, German second division club St. Pauli has released Cenk Sahin from his contract after the midfielder posted a message of support for Turkey’s military action on his Instagram account.
“That we reject acts of war is not open to doubt or discussion,” the club said in a statement. “These acts, and the expression of solidarity with them, run counter to the values of the club.”
UEFA didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment, but Philip Townsend, the press chief for European football’s governing body, 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,” Townsend said.
UEFA regulations say that national associations may be subject to disciplinary measures for “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.”
Just a day after the players’ military salute against Albania, Turkish gymnast Ibrahim Colak repeated the gesture on the podium after receiving his gold medal for victory on the rings at the World Gymnastics Championships.