Euro 2024: UEFA investigating after Turkey’s Merih Demiral makes far-right hand gesture in win over Austria

Merih Demiral scored both of Turkey's goals in their 2-1 win over Austria on Tuesday

Merih Demiral threw up a
Merih Demiral threw up a "wolf" salute that is commonly associated with a far-right Turkish nationalist group after scoring a goal on Tuesday in Germany. (Ronny Hartmann/AFP)

UEFA is investigating Turkey’s Merih Demiral after he made a gesture with far-right connotations after scoring a goal in their Euro 2024 win over Austria on Tuesday.

Demiral threw up a “wolf” salute with his hands after scoring his second goal in Turkey’s 2-1 win over Austria, which secured their spot in the quarterfinals and set up a match against the Netherlands on Saturday. That gesture is associated with the Gray Wolves, a far-right extremist nationalist group based in Turkey. The group has been banned in France, and the gesture Demiral made is banned in Austria — where it’s punishable by fines of up to €4,000.

“An investigation has been opened in accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations in relation to the alleged inappropriate behavior of the Turkish Football Federation player, Merih Demiral,” UEFA said in a statement. “Further information regarding this matter will be made available in due course.”

If it opts to punish Demiral, UEFA could fine or suspend him. FIFA fined a pair of Switzerland players for making a similar gesture during a World Cup match in 2018. Demiral was among a group of Turkey players reprimanded in 2019 after they made military-style gestures at games while the country was conducting military operations in Syria, too.

Demiral was asked about the gesture after the match, and he said he had it in mind before he scored. The gesture, he insisted, was “quite normal.”

“It has to do with this Turkish identity, because I’m very proud to be a Turk. And I felt that to the fullest after the second goal. So that’s how I ended up doing that gesture. I’m very happy that I did that,” Demiral said, via The Associated Press. “I saw people in the stadium who were doing that sign. So that reminded me that I also had that in mind.”

The gesture is not banned in Germany, where the Euro 2024 is being held, but it still drew harsh condemnation from the country’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, on social media. Faeser also said that the Gray Wolves are currently under surveillance by the German government.

“The symbols of Turkish right-wing extremists have no place in our stadiums,” she wrote in German on X. “Using the European Football Championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable. We expect UEFA to investigate the case and consider sanctions.”

Faeser's comments actually prompted Turkey to summon the German ambassador on Wednesday in protest, according to The Associated Press.