Istanbul, Wednesday @PeopleSports11
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an avid follower of sports who massively developed football infrastructure, has in 15 years in power always come away empty-handed from bids for Turkey to hold one of the world’s great sporting events.
On Thursday, UEFA will determine if Erdogan’s dream will finally be realised when it chooses between Turkey and Germany over hosting the 2024 European Championship.
Yet again the shadow of Erdogan will loom large, with his image as a man who can deliver aiding the bid but his increasingly authoritarian reputation as a strongman presiding over an unprecedented crackdown a harmful factor.
By extraordinary coincidence, Erdogan will be embarking Thursday on a visit to Germany which has been bitterly critical on occasion of Turkey under his rule and the outcome will make an interesting talking point in talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The EU, which Turkey has tried unsuccessfully to join for half a century, and rights groups have decried the crackdown that followed the 2016 failed coup and saw tens of thousands arrested.
UEFA itself, in an evaluation report that noted several positive aspects of the Turkish bid, said that the “lack of an action plan in the area of human rights is a matter of concern”.
And rights is far from a theoretical issue after UEFA included it in the criteria in the bidding process for the first time in Euro 2024.“Wherever you look human rights abuses are rampant in Turkey,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher for Amnesty International.
“UEFA needs to be clear with the Turkish government that that wouldn’t be acceptable during the Euro 2024 championship,” he told AFP, adding that protests would have to be allowed during the event.
Jean Marcou, associate researcher at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies, said however that a squeaky clean rights record was hardly a prerequisite, citing the holding of the World Cup by Vladimir Putin’s Russia this summer. -AFP