October 15, 2019 / 11:04 AM / a month ago

Turkey players salute Syria operation after goal against France

ANKARA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Turkish footballers celebrated their goal in a 1-1 draw against world champions France with a military salute to soldiers fighting in northeast Syria, raising the risk of a UEFA investigation after a similar gesture three days ago.

The European football’s ruling body has already said it would examine reports that Turkey footballers performed a military salute in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Albania.

Olivier Giroud scored for France in the 75th minute of Monday night’s match before Kaan Ayhan equalized for Turkey six minutes later. His teammates then lined up in front of the away supporters and saluted.

Turkey’s veteran coach Senol Gunes defended the team’s action, saying it was a gesture of respect for the armed forces rather than a political statement or agitation.

“It’s wrong to look for malicious intentions in the soldier’s salute. We are doing it to look out for our soldiers. We are not doing it so that our soldiers go and kill people,” Gunes told a post-match press conference.

“You’re always asking me about the salute, but it’s way above me. It’s Trump’s business, it’s Macron’s business,” he said, referring to the U.S. and French presidents. “They are the ones who rule the world, while I can barely rule the team.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, accused by critics of giving a de facto green light to the cross-border offensive, has called on Turkey to cease fire. France’s Emmanuel Macron has also urged Ankara to stop the military action.

French newspaper L’Equipe said UEFA was considering opening disciplinary proceedings. UEFA told Reuters that it had not received information yet from its disciplinary department regarding this week’s qualifiers.

Turkey lead Group H of the Euro 2020 qualifiers, ahead of France on goal difference.

On Monday, Turkish midfielder Cenk Sahin was released by German team St Pauli following his Instagram post supporting Turkey’s military incursion.

“Cenk Sahin has been released from his training and playing duties with immediate effect,” St Pauli said in a statement.

The Turkish Football Federation posted a tweet after the Albania game last week, which showed the players and coaching staff in the dressing room making the military salute.

In the tweet, the federation wrote that the team “dedicated their victory to our brave soldiers and fellow martyrs.” (Editing by Dominic Evans, William Maclean)

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