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Germans, Turks get ready for semi-final
June 25, 2008 13:28 IST
German and Turkish fans geared up on Tuesday for their teams' Euro 2008 [Images] semi-final, with police and community officials predicting that Wednesday evening will see frenetic but peaceful sporting rivalry across Germany [Images].
The eagerly-awaited match is being played at St Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland [Images] but the excitement is building in Germany which has about 2.7 million people of Turkish origin, more than in any other country in western Europe.
The flags of both nations have been fluttering side by side from buildings and cars since the start of the three-week tournament being co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland.
"For us, 'we' means both Germany and Turkey so one of our teams is guaranteed a place in the final and we're very happy," Kenan Kolat, chairman of the umbrella group for Germany's Turkish communities, said on Tuesday.
"I don't expect any trouble," he told television broadcaster n-tv. "I hope people will watch the match together and then nothing can go wrong."
Organisers in Berlin, with its 170,000-strong Turkish community, said they had extended the 'Fan Mile' running through the city centre to 1.2 km (0.7 miles) and half a million people were expected to watch the match on three giant screens.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble urged fans from both sides to party together in a "joyful and violence-free atmosphere" and noted the lengthy soccer tradition they share.
Two members of the Turkish squad, Hamit Altintop and Hakan Balta, were born in Germany and Germany manager Joachim Loew had spells as coach of Turkish sides Fenerbahce and Adanaspor.
"The hearts of many of our Turkish fellow-citizens are with both teams," Schaeuble said in a guest article for newspaper BZ to appear on Wednesday.
"I am looking forward to a great game with great emotions," he wrote. "May not only the best team win but also the Germany-Turkey friendship."
Wednesday's match, with a place in Sunday's final against Spain or Russia [Images] at stake, is a chance to improve political relations between the two nations after they went through a tense period earlier this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan clashed over integration after Erdogan said in a speech in Cologne in February that Turks should learn German but not give up their Turkish identities.
Merkel and members of her conservatives, who oppose Turkish membership of the European Union, have long argued that immigrant groups must adapt to the German way of life even if it means abandoning aspects of their native cultures.
Ill-feeling was further in evidence last week after Merkel's representative for integration issues, Maria Boehmer, was criticised by Turkish community members and refused to attend their annual congress.
Police in Cologne said they would be ready for any trouble on Wednesday and offenders would be forcefully dealt with.
"From what we have seen up to now, we have no reason to expect anything other than an evening of sport," said Volker Lange, director of operations.
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008