Türkiye on Thursday dismissed a German news report that its national footballer Merih Demiral has been banned for two games over a gesture he made during his goal celebration in the Euro 2024 last 16 match against Austria.

German newspaper Bild reported that the ruling body UEFA would ban the Turkish defender for Saturday’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands and another match, potentially the semifinal. However, it did not specify a source for its claim.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) dismissed the report, saying they had until Friday morning to submit their view. Türkiye’s Presidential Communications Directorate also said the report of the ban was not true.

UEFA has not commented or released a final decision on the matter, after saying on Wednesday they were investigating potential “inappropriate behavior” from Demiral.

Demiral mimicked with his fingers the shape of a wolf’s head after his second goal in a 2-1 victory over Austria in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

The gesture is linked to Idealists’ Hearths, a foundation affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Erdoğan is set to attend the quarterfinal in Berlin in what local media said was an effort to show solidarity with the national team in person.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), among others, criticized the player sharply.

Türkiye summoned the German ambassador on Wednesday in protest of the sharp reactions.

Demiral said after the Austria game that he only wanted to express that he was proud to be Turkish and that there was no hidden message behind it.

Demiral also received backing from his home country.

The leader of the MHP, Devlet Bahçeli, described UEFA’s initiation of proceedings against the player as a “provocation.”

Bahçeli said UEFA was jumping on “the bandwagon of evil” of those “who are obviously hostile to the Turks and Türkiye.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry described the investigation as unacceptable.

Not every person displaying the sign of the Idealists’ Hearths could be labeled as a right-wing extremist, it said. Moreover, the wolf salute is not banned in Germany, and the reactions of the German authorities were “xenophobic,” the ministry noted.

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