Turkey's ambassador in Berlin has described a military salute by Turkish footballers as "completely normal." He condemned the furor the gesture triggered in Germany, saying it was over the top and bordered on racism.
Turkish Ambassador to Germany Ali Kemal Aydin on Thursday rejected criticism aimed at Turkish footballers who celebrated scoring by perfoming a salute during recent matches against Albania and France.
"It really borders on xenophobia, discrimination and racism," Aydin said in Berlin.
The players' actions — a sign of support for Turkish soldiers involved in Ankara's offensive against Kurdish forces in Syria — have sparked a fierce debate in Germany.
Aydin said the reaction went against the principle of freedom of expression and was a sign of growing "anti-Turkish sentiment" in Germany, which has large Turkish and Kurdish populations.
Among the saluting Turkish internationals during the Albania game were Kaan Ayhan and Kenan Karaman, who also play for the German club Fortuna Düsseldorf. They subsequently refused to take part in the same celebration in the match against France.
Aydin said he couldn't understand why the military greeting had created so much controversy, adding that it was "completely normal and human" to honor soldiers who were risking their lives for their homeland.
"We think it's wrong these players have been so pilloried," he said.
Aydin also took aim at the German media, accusing some outlets of stirring up hatred: "We don't accept this, we find it strange," he said.