A Turkish footballer refused to wear a “no war” T-shirt on Sunday afternoon
Erzurumspor captain Aykut Demir was invited to wear the shirt ahead of his team’s game against Ankaragucu in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The centre-back refused due to the lack of attention being given to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, including the civil war in Yemen.
A report by the United Nations – published in November 2021 – projected that 377,000 will have died from the war by the end of 2021. Millions more have been displaced.
The Syrian War also remains ongoing. The BBC reported 387,118 people had died in March 2021, with a further 205,300 people missing – presumed dead.
“Thousands of people die every day in the Middle East,” said Demir. “I feel sad too. I share the pain of innocent people.
“Those who ignore the persecution there are doing these things when it comes to Europe. I did not like to wear the T-shirt because it was not made for those countries.”
Demir, 33, has previously represented several clubs in Turkey – including Trabzonspor – and picked up one cap for the senior national team.
Erzurumspor play in Turkey’s second tier and are currently fourth in the table.
Before providing his explanation, Demir was criticised for appearing not to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Football clubs, players and fans from across Europe have united against the conflict, protesting at matches last weekend.
Following significant pressure, FIFA and UEFA have banned Russian clubs and the national team from competing in international tournaments until further notice.
As a result, Spartak Moscow’s Europa League campaign is over and Russia are highly unlikely to compete in this year’s World Cup.
The Russian national team still have to qualify for the tournament in Qatar and were due to face Poland on March 24 in a play-off.
That game and others will not take place until the ban is lifted.
“Following the initial decisions adopted by the FIFA Council and the UEFA Executive Committee, which envisaged the adoption of additional measures, FIFA and UEFA have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice,” read a joint statement.
“These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the FIFA Council and the Executive Committee of UEFA, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters.