Cenk Tosun, a football player of Turkish origin who plays for Everton in the British Premier League, ignited a controversy when he celebrated a goal against Rotherham United on Saturday with a hand gesture linked to a far-right Turkish group, although the footballer denied the accusations.
Tosun celebrated scoring the opening goal during the English FA Cup third round football match between Everton and Rotherham United with a wolf sign, the symbol of Turkish far-right group the Grey Wolves, which was banned in France last year.
The goal was later ruled out as being offside, but Tosun made headlines in Britain with the celebratory gesture after scoring the goal, with many accusing him of making the gesture of a racist group.
In the wake of the growing criticism against him, Tosun said he knows nothing about the Grey Wolves and their gesture and was simply pointing to the sky as a sign of thanks to God.
France’s move to ban the controversial group last November came after a center dedicated to the memory of those who died in the mass killings of Armenians during World War I was defaced with graffiti, including the name of the Grey Wolves. The group is seen as a wing of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is allied with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Grey Wolves, regarded as the militant wing of the MHP, caused havoc on the streets of Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s when its members frequently clashed with leftist activists.
People affiliated with the Grey Wolves, known as Bozkurtlar in Turkish, and the MHP traditionally show their loyalty with a hand gesture in which the little and index fingers are raised.
Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish nationalist who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, had also been linked to the movement.
The German government is facing an intensified public campaign in favor of banning the activities of the Grey Wolves in the country.