Turkey strongly criticized Iceland for “disrespectful” treatment of its national football team at Reykjavik Airport upon their arrival ahead of a Euro 2020 qualifying game.
The Turkish team was kept waiting for several hours at passport control on Sunday night and subjected to intense security checks, while the airport officials did not explain the reasons, the football players were quoted by Turkish media as saying.
The airport officials insisted on searching the bags of all players and staff, and the immigration control took a very long time to check the passports of the team members, according to the public broadcaster TRT, describing the airport’s practice as “racist.”
On his Twitter account, Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin slammed the “disrespect” against the national team as “unacceptable.”
“Our state and our people stand by the national team, which will give the best response on the field,” he said.
Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, also said the treatment was “not in line with diplomatic courtesy or sportsmanlike conduct.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a diplomatic protest note to Iceland via the Turkish Embassy in Norway, Turkish diplomatic sources in Ankara told Xinhua.
It’s the Turkish Embassy in Norway that deals with Turkey’s diplomatic and trade matters with Iceland as Ankara doesn’t have an embassy in Reykjavik.
Turkish Ambassador to Norway Fazli Corman has left for Iceland to express Turkey’s discomfort over the developments, Anadolu Agency reported.
There was no immediate explanation for the delay at the airport passport control.
“We have been waiting for three hours. They took everyone’s bags,” Turkey’s midfielder Emre Belozoglu tweeted at the airport. “What they have done is disrespectful.”
While speaking to media on his way out of the airport, Belozoglu was accosted by a man, apparently a local, who held a toilet brush toward his face as a makeshift microphone, a move considered “provocative” and “racist” by the Turkish media.
Furious Turkish internet users took to social media to protest against the treatment of their national squad. The hashtag #sleazbagIceland on Twitter was a trending topic.
In response to similar treatments of Turkish football teams in foreign countries in the past, the Turkish authorities would let customs officials do prolonged searches of the visiting teams from the country concerned.