Turkey Defender Merih Demiral Banned for Two Euro 2024 Games for “Wolf Salute” Celebration

Merih Demiral, a defender for Turkey, received a two-game penalty from UEFA for giving the “wolf salute” after his country defeated Austria 2-1 in the Euro 2024 quarterfinals.

Demiral will now miss Turkey’s pivotal quarterfinal matchup with the Netherlands as well as a probable semifinal matchup with either England or Switzerland due to this decision.

Turkey Defender Merih Demiral Banned for Two Euro 2024 Games for “Wolf Salute” Celebration
"Wolf salute" celebration by Merih Demiral following his goal against Austria. Photo Credit: AFP

Merih Demiral, a defender for Turkey, will not play in his team’s quarterfinal Euro 2024 match against the Netherlands since UEFA punished him for two games on Friday for allegedly making an ultra-nationalist salute. In Tuesday’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Austria, Demiral netted both of Turkey’s goals. In the aftermath of his second goal, he made a gesture connected to the radical right-wing Turkish group Grey Wolves.

Demiral was suspended by UEFA, according to a statement they released, “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.”

In the event that Turkey defeats the Netherlands on Saturday, Demiral will also be out from a probable semifinal matchup with either England or Switzerland.

Following a diplomatic spat between Turkey and Germany, the host country of Euro 2024, over Demiral’s salute, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attend the quarterfinal at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

On Wednesday, Turkey called the German ambassador due to the way lawmakers reacted to Demiral’s birthday celebration. The words “the symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums” were issued by Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

Erdogan hasn’t spoken on the controversy publicly yet, but a number of his ministers and the spokesman for his AKP party have criticized Faeser’s response. According to Demiral, his “Turkish identity” was the reason behind his celebration.

The 26-year-old defender, who was once with Juventus and is currently with Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, claimed that his gesture had no “hidden message”. The caption for a picture that Demiral shared of his celebration on X said, “How happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk’.” In the 1980s, the Grey Wolves employed violence and radical ideals to target ethnic minorities and communist activists.

Germany has not banned the group; Austria and France have. Cem Ozdemir, Germany’s minister of agriculture, declared on Wednesday that “nothing about the wolf salute is hidden.”

Also Read: Euro 2024: Mikel Merino’s Late Header Propels Spain into Semifinals with 2-1 Victory Over Germany

One of the most well-known Turkish-born politicians in Germany, Ozdemir, claimed that the emblem “stands for terror (and) fascism”. The European Parliament designated the Grey Wolves as “a terrorist organization” and described them as “particularly dangerous for people with a Kurdish, Armenian, or Greek background and anyone they consider an opponent” in 2021.

Turkey’s foreign ministry accused German authorities of “xenophobia,” citing a study from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency that noted “not every person making the grey wolf sign can be described as a far-right extremist.” For the first time since 2008, Turkey advanced to the final eight of a major competition thanks to Demiral’s double.

There are an estimated three million Turks residing in Germany, therefore support for the squad during their Euro 2024 matches has been strong nationwide. Given that this Saturday’s quarterfinal is a “high-risk game,” Berlin police have announced that they will be using more cops than normal.

The largest Turkish community outside of Turkey resides in Germany’s capital, with many of them being the offspring of “guest workers” brought in as part of a massive economic program in the 1960s and 1970s.

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