Beckham nemesis and former Aston Villa player Özalan to run as MP candidate for AKP
Former Turkey international footballer Alpay Özalan, who famously taunted David Beckham in a Euro 2004 qualifier, is one of several personalities from outside politics standing for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the June elections.
Turkey will vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 and parties are now submitting the names of candidates to the authorities.
In addition to Özalan, other athletes who are MP candidates for the ruling party candidates include former world wrestling champion Selçuk Çebi and Supersport motorbike racer Kenan Sofuoğlu, who has recently retired.
Özalan, who played 90 times for Turkey, is well remembered in Britain for his notorious October 2003 clash with Beckham in a tense Euro qualifier in Istanbul.
The English player was awarded a penalty but then struck it sky high over the crossbar after slipping just before contact. A gleeful Özalan then went up to Beckham and poked his nose. Beckham contemplated hitting back but thought better of it.
There was later a fracas in the tunnel with Beckham claiming Özalan “said something nasty” about his mother. The game was drawn 0-0, allowing England to qualify for the Euro 2004.
Özalan is the second name on the list of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the second district of Turkey’s third city of İzmir, meaning he stands a fair chance of being elected.
Some Twitter users posted admiring pictures of Özalan squaring up to Beckham in 2003.
“Beckham does not stand for MP like a man but here the man who squeezed his nose, Alpay Özalan, can. Very interesting,” commented one.
The bad blood created by the incident spelt the end of Özalan’s career at Aston Villa in the Premier League for whom he had played since 2000.
Özalan, now 44, has gone on to play in Asia and for Cologne. He has since managed Eskişehirspor and Samsunspor in Turkey.