German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

At least five German regional football teams face disciplinary action after their players imitated the military salute performed by the Turkish national team during matches last weekend.

Germany has a Turkish population of around 2.5 million people and three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media showed their players made the controversial salute to celebrate goals.

"In one case it was the whole team, in another case, it was five or six players," Hans-Otto Matthey, the district chairman of the Westphalia Football and Athletics Association (FLVW), told AFP subsidiary SID.

Matthey hopes making the clubs accountable will discourage others in the region, which has a sizeable Turkish community, against repeating the gesture in this weekend's matches.

"I predict that nobody else will have the nerve to repeat something like this," he added.

There were also two further cases of teams in Bavaria making the salute. Both clubs are also set to face disciplinary measures.

The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France in Paris on Monday and on Friday against Albania.

The salute is seen as a reference to Turkey's military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, which has been condemned by both France and Germany.

Turkey's sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu has described the controversial gesture as a "nice salute", but European football's ruling body UEFA is investigating the national team for the "potential provocative political behaviour" of its players.

After the isolated incidents of saluting in Germany's lower leagues, several regional governing bodies have taken a clear stance.

Both the Bavarian (BFV) and North German Football Associations (NFV) have warned players in their areas to expect "heavy penalties" for imitating the military salute, with other the associations in Berlin and Wurttemberg following suit.

"Insults and provocations have no place on or off the pitch and will not be tolerated", an NFV football official told SID.

The German Football Association (DFB) took a similar stance last weekend.

Germany internationals Emre Can and Ilkay Gundogan, who have Turkish roots, apologised on Sunday after they both clicked 'Like' on a picture of the Turkish footballers saluting during Friday's 1-0 win over Albania, which they later removed.

"We are against all forms of violence and discrimination," said national team director Oliver Bierhoff.

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