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German police urge Turkish fans to avoid 'wolf' sign

July 6, 2024

Turkish player Merih Demiral was barred from two games for making a gesture associated with Turkey's far-right. Turkish ultras have called for fans to use the sign amid a Turkey-Netherlands match in Berlin, Germany.

Turkish flag on Dutch house
A German police union is urging Turkish fans not to make the politically charged "wolf" gesture with Turkey set to square up against the Netherlands in the EUFA Euro 2024 championshipImage: Mouneb Taim/Anadolu/picture alliance

Germany's police union (GdP) on Saturday urged Turkey fans to avoid displaying the controversial gray wolf gesture during an upcoming Euro 2024 match against the Netherlands.

It comes after Turkish player Merih Demiral was banned from two games for showing the gray wolf sign, which is associated with Turkey's far-right, while celebrating his team's Tuesday victory over Austria.

Turkey fans with Turkish flags
German police are worried about the possible presence of extremist symbols after Turkish ultras urged fans to make the controversial 'wolf' gestureImage: Akin Celiktas/Anadolu/picture alliance

What did German police say about the gray wolf sign?

"Politics has no place on the football field," GdP chief Jochen Kopelke said while speaking in the northwestern German city-state of Bremen.

He warned against the use of extremist symbolism.

Kopelke said it was important to examine what conditions would allow for a full ban of the gray wolf sign.

"This is a high-risk game," he said, adding that officers will be presented with "exceptional law enforcement challenges."

"We are committed to a fair and peaceful match," Kopelke stressed.

Before the start of the match, Turkish football ultras called for fans to use the gesture.

The match between Turkey and the Netherlands is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 UTC/GMT) on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to attend the match.

Turkish footballer’s ‘wolf salute’ sparks diplomatic row

What is the controversy around Demiral's 'wolf' gesture?

On Friday, European football's governing body UEFA barred Merih Demiral from the Turkey-Netherlands match as well as a potential semi-final against England or Switzerland if Turkey wins.

UEFA said Demiral had failed "to comply with the general principles of conduct" and had brought football "into disrepute."

Demiral said that he only wanted to express that he was proud to be Turkish and that there was no hidden message behind the gesture. Several German politicians condemned his actions in statements that sparked a diplomatic row with Ankara.

The "wolf" sign is associated with Turkey's Gray Wolves extremist group, which has engaged in attacks on leftists, as well as on Kurds, Armenians, Greeks and other ethnic minority groups.

The group has been banned in Austria and France and was labeled a terrorist organization by the European Parliament in 2021. Germany has not banned the group.

si/rc (SID, epd, dpa)