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German interior minister condemns Turkish defender for using Euro 2024 as ‘platform for racism’ as UEFA opens investigation

<i>Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Demiral score Turkey's second goal against Austria.
Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters via CNN Newsource
Demiral score Turkey's second goal against Austria.

By Thomas Schlachter and Isil Sariyuce, CNN

(CNN) — The German interior minister has condemned the celebrations of Turkish defender Merih Demiral following Turkey’s win against Austria at the European Championship on Tuesday.

Demiral scored twice in Turkey’s 2-1 round of 16 victory and celebrated by making a gesture known as the “wolf salute,” which is associated with the Turkish right-wing extremist group “Grey Wolves.”

“The symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday, adding that the group is under surveillance in Germany.

“Using the European Football Championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable. We expect UEFA to investigate the case and consider sanctions.”

Following the win, Demiral posted a picture of himself making the gesture on X.

“Happy is one who calls themselves a Turk,” the defender captioned the post.

“I had a certain specific celebration in mind. That’s what I did. It has to do with the Turkish identity because I’m very proud to be a Turk. And I felt that to the fullest after the second goal, so I ended up doing that gesture,” Demiral told reporters after the game. “I’m very happy that I did that.”

UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, announced in a statement on Wednesday that it is investigating Demiral’s “alleged inappropriate behavior.”

“In relation to the 2024 UEFA European Championship Round of 16 match between Austria and Türkiye played on 2 July 2024 in Leipzig, Germany, an investigation has been opened in accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations in relation to the alleged inappropriate behavior of the Turkish Football Federation player, Merih Demiral,” UEFA said in its statement.

CNN has reached out to the Turkish Football Federation for comment.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that it is “unacceptable” for UEFA to open a disciplinary investigation against Demiral.

“While the ‘grey wolf’ sign is not a banned symbol in Germany, the reactions shown to Mr. Demiral by the German authorities are itself xenophobia,” it said. “We condemn the politically motivated reactions to the use of a historical and cultural symbol in a way that does not target anyone during the celebration of joy at a sports event.”

Later Wednesday, Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador following German Interior Minister Faeser’s condemnation of the celebration.

Turkey’s next game is against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of Euro 2024 in Berlin on Saturday.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Chris Stern and Gul Tuysuz contributed to reporting

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