FC St. Pauli, a second-division German soccer club, released Turkish midfielder Cenk Sahin after he posted on Instagram in support of his home country’s military operations in Syria, the club announced Monday.
Sahin posted in favor of Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria. The Associated Press reports that on Friday he wrote on Instagram, “We’re on the side of our heroic military and armies. Our prayers are with you!”
Three days later, the club announced Sahin was released from his contract immediately.
“The prime factors in reaching the decisions were his repeated disregard for the club's values and the need to protect the player,” the club said in a statement.
FC St. Pauli is known as one of the world’s most progressive clubs and abides by its list of fundamental principles set in 2009. It takes an outspoken stance on social, cultural and political issues.
Via the club statement:
“After numerous discussions with fans, members and friends whose roots lie in Turkey, it has become clear to us that we cannot and should not attempt to gauge nuances in perceptions and attitudes from other cultural backgrounds in detail. That we reject acts of war is not open to doubt or discussion, however. These acts, and the expression of solidarity with them, run counter to the values of the club.”
His existing contract is valid and St. Pauli has granted him permission to train and play for other clubs, though a switch can only be done in the winter transfer window. Per the AP, Sahin returned to Turkey after the release.
Turkish ground and air forces initiated assaults against a Syrian military in the Kurdish-held regions on the border of the two countries. It came after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw forces from northern Syria, where they had keep an uneasy peace for years, per the Washington Post.
The Kurds had been an American ally against ISIS, but are viewed as terrorists by the Turkish government. The region was a relatively safe area for Syrian refugees, per NPR. The fighting is in its sixth day.
Sahin’s post drew backlash and St. Pauli, based out of Hamburg, conducted an internal review. St. Pauli’s supporters are one of the most politically and culturally engaged fanbases, The Guardian wrote last year, and the club “transcends sports.” Club president Oke Göttlich told The Guardian in June 2018:
“Everybody in Europe should be concerned about the new far-right movement. We are not a party, we only can make our values heard. But we all need to stand strong. If St. Pauli can play a little role in that, we are as happy as if we won a football match.”
The club hosted Antira last summer, an annual international anti-racist tournament that featured music and workshops detailing concerns about far-right movements around the world. FC St. Pauli came to the United States earlier this year for a slate of matches.
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