The Turkish Press ahead of the Semifinal 'Please Don't Shoot in Celebration'

With Turkey and Germany set to meet in the Euro 2008 semifinals on Wednesday, the Turkish press is hopeful that friendship will prevail. Still, most hope that Turkey will "crush the tanks."

By in Istanbul

The Turkish press, including Hürriyet, is looking ahead to Wednesday night's game.

The Turkish press, including Hürriyet, is looking ahead to Wednesday night's game.

"Every Turk was born a soldier," is a common saying in Turkey. And in the Turkish press these days, syntactical saber rattling is on full display. In the Tuesday edition of the sports newspaper Fotomac, for example, the following headline graced the front page: "We Will Crush the Tanks!"

Just who the "tanks" are is not difficult to figure out. On Wednesday evening in Basel, the Turkish national football team matches up against the German team in the semifinals of the Euro 2008 soccer championships. It is the first time the two teams have met in a major tournament since 1954. And Turkey, for its part, is preparing for battle.

"The fact that Germany is considered the clear favorite gives us extra motivation," Turkish striker Semih Sentürk told the paper. "We are the better team and we will win 1-0. We are gutsy and we aren't afraid of anything."

For many, though, the significance of the match goes far beyond mere sport. After all, Germany is home to a substantial population of Turkish immigrants and Germans with Turkish backgrounds. Integration has been a sore subject in Germany for years, and for many, this game is seen as something of a test.

The football journal Fanatik chose to headline its Tuesday article "Friendship Should Win." The publication ran a long interview with Germany's trainer Joachim Löw, who used to be the coach of the Turkish-league team Fenerbahce. Löw comments at length about the humanity of the Turks ("Even poor people invited me for a meal"), about his time coaching in Turkey ("I learned there how to coach a great team") and about Turkey's national team trainer Fatih Terim ("I am a big fan. He really injects passion into his players." But by page six, even Fanatik gets tired of the love-fest. "The tanks have experience, but they shouldn't take us lightly…"

In Germany, the Turkish tabloid Hürriyet is likewise interested in making friends. On Wednesday, the paper published an article on the game in German and also threw in a "friendship poster" with pictures of both teams on it. "Friendship should be the victor," it says. German tabloid Bild responds with a poster of its own, claiming it hopes for a "fun and fair football festival."

Not everyone, though, is interested in the cross-cultural aspect of the game. The paper FotoGol chooses the spiritual angle. The paper calls the country's advancement to the semifinal "a miracle for Turkey!" And: "Our injured national players are healing, one after the other!" Emre, Servet, Tümer, Mehmet Topal, Semih and Hakan Balta: all of them as good as new." The paper sees victory as being within reach. "Nothing is impossible! If we stop Ballack, we can slow the whole team."

The daily paper Zaman, for its part, appeals to fans to keep a level head, even should Turkey emerge victorious. "Please don't shoot out of national celebration," the paper writes. As absurd as that may sound, however, it has been a real problem in Turkey. Fully 30 people have been killed in the last 10 years in the country by errant shots fired in post-game ecstasy. Hundreds have been injured. Zaman calls on its readers to inform the police of any gunshots. The problem has become so serious that Emine Erdogan, wife of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has even started a "Campaign against Celebratory Gunfire." She recently made a personal call to the father of young Duygu Kader Öztürk, who was injured after Turkey's last game against Croatia.

As for her husband, Prime Minister Erdogan will make the trip to Basel for the game on Wednesday. He missed Turkey's opening match against Switzerland earlier this month amid a political crisis at home. The Turkish high court threw out his government's headscarf reforms and is threatening to ban his party, the AKP.

This time around, however, sports will have the upper hand. Indeed, Turkey's parliament is even planning to award the team special medals as motivation ahead of the Germany match. The secularist paper Radikal likewise hopes that sports can trump politics. It writes that, despite the headscarf debate, the ongoing efforts to ban the AKP, and rumors that a military putsch is in the works, "everyone is only thinking about the Germany game."


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