Turkey is viewed as the underdog in its bid to host the 2024 European Championship, with Germany boasting more economic and political stability. Turkey prefers to think it ticks other boxes.
On Thursday, the host nation of UEFA EURO 2024 will be decided. Germany or Turkey? A look at the odds would suggest the vote is a foregone conclusion, but is it really set in stone?
UEFA's evaluation report censored in Turkey
Perhaps. UEFA released its evaluation report on the respective bids to host EURO 2024, with Germany's bid deemed superior in a number of categories. Germany received high praise for its "inspirational, creative and very professional vision," while Turkey's lack of an action plan regarding human rights received criticism.
The report was a significant indicator and is intended to allow UEFA's Executive Committee to make the most informed decision possible. In Turkey, this report has remained censored, with only the negative comments regarding Germany's bid released to the public.
For Turkey there is a lot on the line. Given the tense relations with Germany, winning the vote in this politically fueled head-to-head would be a weighty result that would send a powerful message to the Turkish people. The economy has been hit hard and the Turkish lira has fallen dramatically in value. Hosting the European Championship would help breathe new life into the country. It's one of the reasons they have fought so hard in the bidding process.
Özil affair and 2006 to haunt Germany?
Erdal Keser still believes that Turkey have a chance. Born in Turkey, he moved to Germany at the age of 10. Keser played for Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray twice each in the 80s and 90s, but opted to represent Turkey on the international stage. "Even if the evaluation report is not binding, it's been difficult for Turkey to convince the organizing body," explained Keser is an interview with DW, before going on to point out which boxes Turkey does tick. "Turkey is ready to host the tournament, the infrastructure is there."
Keser, who spent time working with the Turkish Football Federation, is convinced that Turkey can win the vote as underdogs due to two unresolved situations in Germany. The Mesut Özil debacle and subsequent debate about racism in Germany and the ongoing investigation into the corruption claims regarding the successful FIFA World Cup bid in 2006 could strengthen Turkey's bid according to Keser: "Germany is ashamed because it's been accused of paying money to be able to host a tournament."
The ongoing fan protests in Germany against the commercialization of football and DFB President Reinhard Grindel have been duly noted in Turkey.
There's also the fact that many in Turkey think that they are simply due to host a major tournament, since this is the fifth time the country has submitted a bid to do so, without success.
"As a leading European tourist destination, and the geographical centre of the world, we want to extend UEFA Euro 2024 to a wider audience and share this experience with all of our great nations," the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) confidently declares on its website.
However, what you don't find on the website are the results of an online poll to measure public support for the Turkish bid. Users have the opportunity to vote "yes" or "no" but they can't call up the results of the voting. The TFF didn't respond to a DW request for comment on the results.
Hardly glory days for Turkish football
In the absence of the results of the poll, DW turned to the editor in chief of Eurosport Turkey, Bagis Erten. He said that, while you will hardly hear any negative comments about the bid in public, people aren't generally all that enthused about it either.
"Generally speaking, the attitude towards football in Turkey at the moment is one of apathy," Erten said. "The national team has been having bad results and due to Financial Fair Play, a lot of clubs are going through a difficult time. Attendance has also been hurt by the introduction of a new ticket-selling mechanism."
In fact, little is left of the dreams Turkey once espoused of catching up to the top European leagues. Turkey's clubs have long since fallen way behind Europe's elite. This was evident in the round of 16 of the Champions League last season, when Bayern Munich handed Besiktas a 8-1 drubbing on aggregate – even while resting some of their starters.
"All Turkish clubs are bankrupt," is how Emir Guney, director of the Center for Sports Studies at Kadir Has University in Istanbul summed up the crux of the problem.
However, Erten believes there is another argument that could work in Turkey's favor. Should Turkey win, he argues, this would be a continuation of a tradition that started with Russia and Qatar.
"Sports governing bodies are more and more looking to regimes that are neoliberal in terms of economics but very conservative and authoritarian when it comes to politics. This is because of the fact that there, decisions can be taken more easily, they are better hosts in the eyes of the governing bodies," he said. There is no active civil society there, so organizers prefer these locations.
For critics of international sports governing bodies, the theory seems plausible enough. But will this be of any help to Turkey?
'Reports don't make a winning candidate'
Popular sports reporter Ugur Karakullukcu sees reason for the Turkish bid organizers to be hopeful.
"Reports don't make a winning candidate," Karakullukcu told DW, with reference to UEFA's evaluation report on the Turkish and German bids. He also noted that Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, despite the fact that it didn't come first in a technical report that preceded the decision. The bid that finished second in that vote just happened to be Istanbul. The organizers of the Turkish bid hope that after all those failed attempts, their time has come.