Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has thrown his support behind the national footballer Merih Demiral, calling his ban purely political and a punishment for the whole country.

Speaking to journalists on his return journey from Berlin, the president said the decision by UEFA cast a shadow over the Euro 2024 tournament.

Demiral was sanctioned by the European football body for making the wolf sign after scoring in the last-16 against Austria.

In the West, the wolf sign is wrongly attributed, among other things, to a far-right extremist movement known as “grey wolves.”

There was outrage in Türkiye but Erdogan did not comment on the ban until returning from attending the team’s 2-1 quarterfinal defeat against the Netherlands on Saturday night.

“The punishment against Merih is not about Merih personally. In fact, it is a punishment given to Türkiye as a nation,” Erdoğan said.

“To be honest, UEFA’s two-match ban on Merih has cast a serious shadow over the championship. It is inexplicable, it is a purely political decision.”

“Thank God it did not affect the morale and motivation of our national players. Despite all these negativities, our national football team has given such a football school as the Netherlands a very hard time.”

“Our national team responded to the injustice done to them with the spectacular football they played on the field. I wholeheartedly congratulate our internationals who did their best until the last second and made us feel great excitement and pride,” he added.

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