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Erdoğan is using Turkish footballers as influencers

Among the supporters of the Turkish president's politics there are also the young stars of the National team

Erdoğan is using Turkish footballers as influencers Among the supporters of the Turkish president's politics there are also the young stars of the National team

The collective military salute with which the Turkish players celebrated the win against Albania last Friday, all lined up in front of the cameras, was certainly one of the most talked-about pics of the whole football weekend dedicated to the National matches in view of Euro 2020. A loud and unequivocal image of support for the armed aggression campaign promoted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the meanwhile the Turkish leader had obtained from Donald Trump the necessary disengagement to be able to advance with his troops and fight the Kurdish army just close the borders with Syria, killing about 500 'terrorists' during the first attacks. Although this is only the last chapter of a war that has lasted for years, for the first time the Turkish football movement finds itself so deeply involved in the military dynamics, although these events look very much like some scenes already experienced during the Yugoslavia conflict in the early 1990s or, going even further back, during the Nazo-fascist period. The gesture of which they have become protagonists, among the many (all very young), the AC Milan midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu, the Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral, Zeki Çelik, Yusuf Yazıcı, Umut Meraş and the match-winner Cenk Tosun, quickly replicated all together in the locker room, is nothing but a deja-vù, the last episode that shows a clear alignment of the most representative footballers of the country alongside Erdoğan after the support tweets and the very explicit declarations of recent days by members of the major National team about the Operation Peace Spring.

The Turkish president, on the other hand, who at the age of 15 was about to become a professional player before being stopped by his father, in recent years has become even closer to the world of football, cultivating so many important friendships with the clear intention of obtaining the passe-partout needed to break into Turkish society, exploiting the image of successful Turks in Europe as an effective propaganda tool. The name of Erdoğan has been linked from many years to Kasımpaşa, whose stadium bears his name, but also to Istanbul Başakşehir, one of the many Istanbul clubs created almost from nothing that in recent years has even managed to touch the local league victory and a historic qualification in the Champions League main stage. Just from Başakşehir two years ago landed in Italy Cengiz Ünder, the AS Roma forward who repeatedly celebrated his Italian goals with a military salute. And was precisely in that admittedly governmental team that Emmanuel Adebayor and Arda Turan played, both of whom used to use already in 2017 that provocative celebration that would seem to have been studied carefully, and almost always justified with the intention of paying homage to the soldiers, those who fight risking their lives to keep them safe.

Erdoğan's relationship with famous footballers does not end with the sphere of Turkish football: the leader witnessed Mesut Özil's wedding and also has good relations with Ilkay Gündoğan and Emre Can, all three members of the German National team despite having clear Turkish origins. It's natural to ask about the true nature of this kind of affiliation campaign, and if the players in question are really aware of the meaning of the military salute and of so many other pro Erdoğan conducts or if they are simple involuntary testimonials, that ignore the situation or that they are obliged to behave in this way for other reasons. There's instead someone who has matured over the years a full and completely different awareness of the situation: Hakan Şükür, the former member of parliament and one of the heroes of the great generation of Turkish football between the 90s and 2000s, has repeatedly declared his opposition to Erdoğan's policy (supporting Fethullah Gülen instead) and for this reason he has been forced to live in California for some years, even if he is continuing to post his ideas on Twitter. But despite very few sporting opponents, the former Torino and Inter Milan are not the only ones who dared speak out against the Erdoğan regime: much less famous but equally brave, over the years, the Kurdish-born footballer Deniz Naki has proved himself first victim of an ambush with gunshots a few years ago when he was still playing in Germany and then disqualified by the Turkish Football Federation for ideological propaganda.

That happened at the end of the match against Albania, another decisive match to continue the journey towards Euro 2020, now really one step away, despite the statement later denied by the media head Philip Townsend, however, risks ending seriously under the eye of the UEFA, which by regulation provides that clear references to politics and religion must remain outside the pitch, and therefore most likely will soon examine the case more deeply. If someone has already known how to handle these clear provocations, such as the German team of St. Pauli against their striker Cenk Şahin, from which firstly the club immediately took distances from himself a post in favor of Turkish offensive and then decided immediately to release him, for bigger clubs it will be very complicated choose how to behave in this tough moment, especially to avoid unpleasant consequences: always guarantee the freedom of speech to their members or cut the way of communicating their ideas when they are objectively to be condemned?

Turkey will play tonight in France against the current World Champions, and many French politicians have strongly opposed to play the game. As tweeted by Jean-Christophe Lagarde, president of the UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents):

"With this military salute, the Turkish soccer team has unfortunately broken the border that must separate sport from politics. We cannot welcome decently tomorrow at the Stade de France those who greet the massacre of our Kurdish allies!"

But it's not only the match against France that is being discussed, as in the meantime someone else has already launched the hashtag #NoFinaleChampionsIstanbul, in view of the next Champions League final which will be played at Atatürk, but which, because of the dramatic situation, it cannot be disputed regularly.