Why Turkish footballer Aykut Demir refused to wear pro-Ukrainian ‘No War’ t-shirt

Turkish footballer Aykut Demir opened up on why he didn’t wear a pro-Ukrainian t-shirt during last weekend’s fixtures.

The defender was the only Erzurumspor player not to wear the t-shirt ahead of their defeat against Ankaragucu.

Opposition to the movement has been slim, with the world of sport uniting in response to Russia’s invasion. In England, supporters showed their solidarity by displaying Ukrainian flags and banners in the terraces.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian duo Oleksandr Zinchenko and Vitaliy Mykolenko shared a warm embrace ahead of Manchester City’s clash with Everton.

On the continent, various leagues adopted their own way of showing support. Several Bundesliga clubs stood arm in arm ahead of their weekend matches, displaying anti-war messaging. While in Spain, all televised games had a ‘stop war’ banner next to the scoreline and time.

Aykut Demir highlights hypocritical approach in Ukrainian response

It hasn’t just been the players and fans taking action over the Russian invasion. Last week, UEFA moved the Champions League final from Saint Petersburg to Paris before expelling all Russian sides from European Competition. FIFA eventually followed suit, with Russia now unable to compete in their upcoming World Cup playoff.

Read: Poland say they will refuse to play World Cup qualifier against Russia.

As the footballing world turns its back on Russia, some have highlighted hypocrisies within the response to previous conflicts.

In September 2016, Celtic received a fine from UEFA after supporters displayed Palestinian flags against Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

The Parkhead faithful were protesting against Israel’s alleged occupation of Palestinian territory. UEFA punished them for their actions.

UEFA reasoned that the show of support too overtly political, ruling the flags were, in fact, “illicit banners.”

Critics speak out about double standards

Those double standards led Demir to opt out of wearing a pro-Ukrainian t-shirt last weekend. In an interview with Turkish news outlet Mepanews, the former Turkish international outlined his approach:

“Every day, thousands of civilians are killed in the Middle East, and they keep silent,” claimed Demir. “When it comes to Europe, they are acting like that.”

Evidently upset with the different responses, Demir’s words sparked a debate on football’s stance in geo-politics. Some criticised the 33-year-old’s position, whilst others were quick to support him.

Amongst those in agreement was Mohamed Aboutrika, who called on FIFA to do more in response to Israel’s continued aggression. In an address to FIFA, the former Egypt captain urged more sanctions to be imposed:

“The decision to suspend Russian clubs and teams from all competitions must be accompanied by a ban on those affiliated with Israel.

“(Israel) has been killing children and women in Palestine for years. You’re using double standards,” claimed Aboutrika.

Demir and Aboutrika make compelling arguments. Some critics have labelled the comments as unhelpful. Many are now pushing for governing bodies to issue harsher responses to other nations. The actions taken against Russia have proven football and politics are undeniably connected.