Euro 2024: Turkey’s Demiral gets 2-game ban for celebration

Turkey defender Merih Demiral has been handed a two-game suspension by UEFA after he celebrated a goal at Euro 2024 by displaying a hand sign associated with an ultranationalist group in his team’s round-of-16 win over Austria on Tuesday.

UEFA confirmed on Wednesday that it had appointed an inspector to investigate Demiral, and on Friday said in a statement that he had been banned “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 defender scored both goals in the 2-1 win to earn a place in the quarterfinals, though he will now miss his team’s game against the Netherlands on Saturday.

If Turkey win that tie, Demiral would also miss their semifinal against either England or Switzerland, who play earlier Saturday. Should the Netherlands win, the second half of the ban would be served in the next competitive game after the tournament.

After scoring the second goal he appeared to make a sign with each hand that is associated with the Turkish ultranationalist organisation Ulku Ocaklari, which is more widely known as the Gray Wolves.

Demiral was previously one of 16 Turkey players reprimanded in 2019 for making military-style salutes at games at a time when the country was conducting a military offensive in Syria.

The Gray Wolves group has been banned in France, while Austria has banned the use of the Gray Wolf salute, which is widely used by nationalists in Turkey.

The incident has caused political difficulty between Germany and Turkey, with Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser saying, “The symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums” in a post on X on Wednesday.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has decided to attend the quarterfinal in Berlin on Saturday as a result of the fallout from Demiral’s gesture, according to Turkish media reports.

Demiral and Erdogan’s government have defended the gesture as a normal expression of patriotic pride.

Turkey vice president Cevdet Yilmaz on Friday claimed the ban should be rescinded.

“The beauty and excitement of football should not be overshadowed with political decisions,” Yilmaz said in a post on X.

Information from Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.