Politicians across France have taken to social media to call for Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Turkey in Paris to be cancelled.
It comes after Turkish players performed a military salute gesture in Friday’s victory over Albania following Cenk Tosun’s last-minute goal in Istanbul.
The gesture came just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched military operations in northeast Syria against Kurdish forces.
After the match, the official Twitter page for the Turkish national team uploaded a photo showing the playing squad and coaching staff making the same gesture in the changing room.
The photo was accompanied with a caption saying the team had “dedicated their victory to our brave soldiers and fellow martyrs.”
On Monday, a number of politicians used the hashtag #AnnulationMatchFranceTurquie to call for the match between France and Turkey to be called off.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France’s populist left-wing party France Insoumise, tweeted that the “basis for sportsmanship” no longer existed.
“If Turkish footballers make military salutes, they should expect to be treated like the soldiers of an enemy army.”
Meanwhile, Jean Christophe Lagarde, leader of the centre-right UDI, also said that “the Turkish football team has unfortunately broken the border that must separate sports from politics.”
The office of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have announced that he will no longer be attending Monday’s match, as was previously planned.
French President Emmanuel Macron has widely condemned Turkey for its military action in Syria, saying that it could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
But Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, a member of the National Assembly from President Macron’s party En Marche! tweeted that calls for the match to be cancelled would not solve the situation in Syria.
“Sport and football in particular have always been a space for protest and political affirmation.”
However the leader of France’s far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, took to social media to say that Turkish players had “flouted the values of sport”.
“It is time for UEFA to sanction this political drift of the Turkish Football Federation!”
National Rally spokesman Jordan Bardella added that it would be “unthinkable” for Turkish players to perform the same military salute on French soil.
UEFA Investigation to be announced
UEFA, football’s European governing body, are reportedly investigating the gesture made by Turkish players, but have made any announcement in response to these calls.
UEFA media spokesperson Philip Townsend told Italian news agency Ansa that he had not personally seen the gesture but it “could be considered a provocation.”
“Does the regulation prohibit references to politics and religion? Yes, and I can guarantee you that we will look at this situation.”
And speaking to Euronews, a UEFA spokesperson said that any disciplinary action will be announced after the completion of all European Championship qualifier games this matchweek.
Article 16, 2 (e) of UEFA regulations prohibit “the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature”.
An important match for football reasons
French national team manager Didier Deschamps has played down the geopolitical tensions ahead of Monday’s match, saying that his team are concentrating on the football match.
Meanwhile Turkish coach Senol Gunes said he did not want to make a political declaration when asked whether the team’s military salute during its match against Albania was an expression of support for Turkey’s military offensive in Syria.
In a press conference, midfielder Irfan Kahveci said Turkey’s players support their country and “hope all our soldiers come home unharmed”.
Turkey’s ambassador to France and the Turkish sports minister are due to attend the fixture.
French officials are planning to step up security ahead of this Monday’s game in the Stade de France.
Turkey and France are tied on 18 points at the top of Group H, with Turkey ahead based on their 2-0 win over France in June.