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UEFA hands Turkey defender Merih Demiral two-match suspension following controversial goal celebration

<i>Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Merih Demiral made the controversial celebration in the round of 16.
Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Merih Demiral made the controversial celebration in the round of 16.

By Thomas Schlachter, CNN

(CNN) — UEFA has suspended Turkey player Merih Demiral for two games following a controversial hand gesture made by the defender in Turkey’s round of 16 Euro 2024 win against Austria.

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

UEFA announced the decision to suspend Demiral on Friday, a day before Turkey’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands.

In its statement, UEFA said its appeals body charged the defender “for failing to comply with the general principles of conduct, 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 Turkish Football Federation confirmed to CNN that its legal department is working on an appeal to the suspension.

“Does anyone say that the Germans have an eagle on their jerseys? Does anyone say that the French have a rooster on their jerseys?” Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said to Turkish broadcaster TRT.

“There, Merih expressed his excitement with this image. Thereupon, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs called their officials and the necessary steps are being taken accordingly.

“Hopefully, on Saturday we will leave the field with a victory and move on to the next round. Unless something extraordinary happens, we have decided to go to the match.”

CNN’s German affiliate network NTV and TRT reported that Erdogan is set to come to Berlin on Saturday for Turkey’s game against the Netherlands.

Servet Yardimci, UEFA Executive Board Member and Turkish Football Federation (TFF) Presidential Candidate, called the ban “unacceptable.”

“Requesting punishment for a natural celebration after the match is over in a tournament that is running smoothly is an intervention in the independence of football,” he wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Our football player shared a natural joy when he was celebrating with Turkish fans the happiness of a moment … there is no element here that could hurt your opponent or any community. The player naturally expressed his feelings at the press conference he attended after the match.

“Football players’ celebration methods and manners should not be penalized unless they are derogatory to any group or group or violate basic rules of courtesy.”

Yardimci added: “I would like to emphasize my belief that this mistake must be corrected before it is too late.”

The Turkish minister of youth and sports, Osman Aşkın Bak, said on X: “We condemn UEFA’s unfair and biased decision, which we believe has no legal basis and is entirely political.

“We will continue to seek our rights through legal means against this double standard applied to our country and our national football player Merih Demiral.

“We believe in our football players. They will also give the necessary answer on the green field!”

Following the win against Austria, 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.”

Germany summoned Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin Thursday in a tit for tat over the celebration after Turkey recalled the German ambassador in Ankara.

German representatives discussed the incident with the Turkish ambassador in Berlin, the German foreign ministry added.

Germany’s Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, warned Wednesday “the symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums” and said that “using the European football championships as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable.”

Faeser added that the “Grey Wolves” group is under surveillance in Germany.

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

CNN’s Scott McLean, Hande Atay Alam and Umut Sevdi Tangör contributed to this report.

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