Turkish Football Federation: Erdoğan’s meeting with footballers of Turkish origin ‘normal’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with Germany’s two top footballers was an “ordinary” one, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chair Yıldırım Demirören has said, reacting to German Football Federation (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel’s criticism about the meeting.
“It is a well-known fact that our president, who is a former footballer, is a passionate football lover and has made big contributions to the development of this sport in Turkey. Thus, his meeting with three footballers who were born in Germany, namely players of the German national squad, Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan, and the striker of our national team, Cenk Tosun, took place in an ordinary situation,” he said in a statement on May 15.
“It is very normal when footballers, regardless of their nationality, accept an invitation from a head of state,” he added, accusing Grindel of “making a big mistake” by “politicizing football.”
Demirören also said Turkey would pursue its bid to host the Euro 2024 within the framework of rules determined by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Germany has been competing with Turkey to host the football tournament.
‘To my honored president’
Germany internationals Mesut Özil of Arsenal and İlkay Gündoğan of Manchester City, both of Turkish origin, met Erdoğan in London on May 13. Cenk Tosun of Everton, who was born in Germany but represents Turkey, was also present.
Pictures of the meeting were posted on the official Twitter account of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections.
DFB head Grindel responded on May 14 that international players should not let themselves be “manipulated” in Erdoğan’s election campaign.
Gündoğan, who gave Erdoğan a souvenir, which read “to my honored president, with my respects,” insisted after the controversy he “did not want to make a political statement with this photo,” AFP reported on May 15.
Both midfielders Mesut Özil and İlkay Gundoğan are included in Germany’s 27-man World Cup squad for Russia 2018.