Turkey says national team treated badly at Iceland airport

Franco Brienza, Emre Belezoglu

FILE – In this file photo dated Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006, Newcastle midfielder Emre Belezoglu of Turkey, in action during a UEFA Cup soccer match against Palermo, in Palermo, southern Italy. An unidentified man held a cleaning brush up to the face of team captain Emre Belezoglu who was speaking to media, and Turkey has lodged a formal protest Monday June 10, 2019, against authorities in Iceland over the way its national soccer team was treated on its arrival Sunday for an upcoming European Championship qualifying match.(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, FILE)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey lodged a formal protest Monday over the allegedly rude treatment its national soccer team received at Iceland’s largest airport after arriving for a European Championship qualifying match.

The Turkish team has complained that it was delayed at Keflavik Airport on Sunday while officials searched bags at a slow pace. Airport officials have defended the searches as routine and sought to blame the delay on some of the Turkish players for not being cooperative.

Frustration escalated once the team was through security, when an unidentified man held a cleaning brush up to team captain Emre Belezoglu while the Turkish player was speaking to reporters. Video footage shows the brush popping up toward Belezoglu’s face as if it were a microphone.

Turkish media have called the team’s treatment “disrespectful” and “racist.” The country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, tweeted that it was “unacceptable from the point of diplomatic and humane practices.”

Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed a formal protest was brought.

The Turkish team flew to Iceland for Tuesday’s European qualifier in the capital of Reykjavík. The trip started in the Turkish city of Konya after the team beat world champion France 2-0 on Saturday in a Group H qualifier.

Iceland’s airport operator, ISAVIA, said the inspections the players underwent were mandatory for arrivals not covered by agreements with the European Union. However, it acknowledged the team had waited longer than usual to clear security due to an alleged lack of cooperation.

“Requests to remove electronics and liquid were not entirely met,” the operator said in a statement.

Still, it said that the procedure was “swift” and the players passed through customs within 80 minutes of landing — disputing Turkish media reports of a process that took two hours.

Members of Iceland’s team said they have had to deal with delays on returning home, too, notably in 2015 after returning from Konya in Turkey.

“It was similar. Passport control and detailed bag inspection,” Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson said at a Monday press conference.

Iceland coach Erik Hamren would not comment on the issue ahead of the match.

“I focus on the football,” he said.

Vidir Reynisson, director of security for the Icelandic Football Association, told The Associated Press no extra security measures have been put in place for Tuesday’s game.

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Bjarnason contributed from Reykjavik, Iceland.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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