against Turkey, a “very special match” for German captain Ilkay Gündogan

The German midfielder is preparing to experience a “very special” moment against Turkey this Saturday evening (8:45 p.m.).

More than five years after his controversial photo alongside Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ilkay Gundogan is preparing to experience a “very special” moment with Germany on Saturday in Berlin (8:45 p.m.), a first friendly match against Turkey, with the captain’s armband.

This match comes in a special context and the highly controversial visit to Germany on Friday by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after the Turkish president’s diatribes against Israel, which he accused of acting like a “terrorist” state in its war against Hamas.

Read alsoFootball: Kimmich back with Germany for friendly matches against Turkey and Austria

In the Berlin Olympic Stadium and its 74,500 seats, tens of thousands of Turkish supporters or those with Turkish origins are expected, while Germany welcomes a large Turkish diaspora of some 2.9 million people.

“It’s going to be a very special match for me,” explained Ilkay Gündogan (33) to the German sports press agency SID, a subsidiary of AFP.

In May 2018, the midfielder posed in London, in the company of Mesut Özil, alongside Erdogan, then in the middle of his re-election campaign. Since this controversy, Gündogan has established himself as a major player in his various clubs (Manchester City for 7 seasons, then FC Barcelona since the summer of 2023), and more recently in the selection.

A German international since May 2012 (after having played in the German youth teams since 2009), he had missed the only match between Germany and Turkey played since, on October 7, 2020 in Cologne (3-3) in front of 300 spectators, pandemic requires.

In September, before the friendly match against Japan, Germany coach Hansi Flick gave him the captain’s armband, a responsibility he umed brilliantly last season with Manchester City, lifting three trophies, including the League of Nations. champions, after a final won against Inter Milan (1-0) at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.

When Julian Nagelsmann replaced Flick as coach at the end of September, the young 36-year-old Bavarian technician confirmed this strong choice.

Connections with the Bosphorus

Nagelsmann even went further, explaining that Gündogan will remain captain, including in the event of a return to the selection of Manuel Neuer, absent due to injury (fracture of the lower part of the right leg) from December 2022 to October 2023 and again a little too short for the international window in mid-November.

Born in Gelsenkirchen, in the heart of the German industrial Ruhr, Ilkay Gündogan still has many ties to the Bosphorus. “My grandfather, my parents and other relatives still live in Turkey, in Izmir, and I obviously also have a lot of friends there,” he explains.

“I try to go to Turkey at least once a year. Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world, I love Turkish food,” he adds, explaining that he follows the matches of the Turkish selection in front of the TV when possible, or “at least the summary” meetings.

As host country, Germany is qualified and did not take part in the qualifications, which began in March 2023 after the 2022 World Cup and which end Tuesday evening with the last matches at stake.

Turkey has already secured its place at Euro-2024, a qualification which has not left Gündogan indifferent.

“I was extremely delighted when Turkey qualified for Euro 2024 (June 14-July 14), and I am also convinced that they can be a nice surprise,” he slipped.

Three days after the duel against Turkey, Germany will travel to the Ernst-Happel Stadion in Vienna to challenge Austria, also already qualified for Euro-2024.

These two friendly matches, between selections which could well meet next June for the group stage of the Euro, will serve as real tests for Nagelsmann’s Mannschaft, which hopes to confirm the slight improvement observed during the last three matches (victories against France 2-1 and the United States 3-1 and draw 2-2 against Mexico).

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