Saint-Denis (France) (AFP) – Turkey coach Senol Gunes urged travelling supporters to attend Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against France in Paris “in a spirit of brotherhood” following international condemnation of the Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the French capital and other European cities on Saturday to protest Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in war-torn Syria.
Asked about the tense diplomatic relations surrounding the match, Gunes called on Turkish fans to enjoy the game as his side attempt to close in on a place at Euro 2020.
“I’m expecting a good atmosphere,” Gunes, whose side are level with France on 18 points at the top of Group H, told reporters Sunday.
“Sometimes there are provocations in the stands but I want to address the Turkish supporters: if they come to see a match, it’s to enjoy watching football. I want them to applaud both teams, France as well.
“Football is a fraternity, the beautiful game. It’s a sport where everyone is brought together. I hope fans will be in a spirit of brotherhood.”
The Turkish offensive began on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump ordered American troops to pull back from the border area of north-east Syria.
Turkey players performed a military salute, a gesture seen as supporting their country’s armed offensive, after Cenk Tosun scored a 90th-minute winner in Friday’s 1-0 victory over Albania in Istanbul.
Gunes, however, refused to be drawn into a political debate over the incident.
“I don’t want to make any political declarations, but our children could be these soldiers,” he said.
“I don’t want there to be any deaths. I don’t want these debates to override the match. We encourage our soldiers but I’m against any sort of violence.”
Turkey beat France 2-0 in the reverse fixture in Konya in June and could qualify with another win at the Stade de France.
“We’re playing against the world champions. We can win or lose and a draw would be a good result for us,” said Gunes.
“But whatever the result I hope the two teams will congratulate each other, not just on the pitch but in the stands, in doing this we are contributing to world peace.”