He was once the greatest football hero in Turkey, made 112 international matches for his country and was eight times champion with Galatasaray. Then Hakan Sükür (49) was declared persona non grata. He was accused of belonging to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, which has been declared a terrorist organization in Turkey. In 2015 he fled to the USA.
BILD am SUNDAY: Mr. Sükür, all of Europe is looking to the EM. Players become heroes just like you once were. Today in your home country you are ignored and your records are no longer mentioned. That must hurt…
Hakan Sükür (49): Of course it hurts. The politicians in Turkey use football for their own purposes. Politics uses me as the most famous player in Turkey, who is also popular among the people, to sow fear. They want to show that they can take on anyone and that what happened to me can happen to anyone. As for my performance – everyone knows the truth. It’s obvious what I’ve done.
How does your family in Turkey deal with it?
It is under enormous pressure from the Turkish injustice regime. My father was sentenced to prison without ever doing anything. An 80 year old man! All because he’s my father. You plunge a seriously ill man into misery. Even the judges admit that there is nothing they can do because they have orders from above. The case is currently with the Supreme Court. We expect Turkish and international law to be complied with!
Is it true that your property has been confiscated in Turkey?
Everything I had was taken away from me, I was expropriated. Everything I earned and invested in my country was stolen from me by the regime. I’m still going through very difficult times, being bullied even though I haven’t done anything. The regime does the same with other people who do not suit them, who disagree. They frightened the people with the examples they made of us. You have to think about it: People who are accused of even the worst things try to portray me as a criminal.
What exactly are you being accused of?
I would like to know that, too! I am called a traitor. What did I do to be called a traitor? I ask the Turkish authorities to tell me what I did wrong. I am immediately ready to defend myself before the Turkish courts if I have the prospect of fair treatment. Unfortunately, at the moment in Turkey, the regime determines who will be expropriated and who will go to prison.
Do you experience solidarity?
Many people are even afraid to follow me on social networks or to comment on my posts, even though they love me. I expect international solidarity. I am one of the most successful footballers in Turkey, but the Erdogan regime has put me in a position where I even have to fight for my permanent residence permit in another country. Only with the solidarity of the sports world can we rebel against the fascist regime.
You have not received any solidarity from the global football community, which is so fond of calling itself family?
Correct. Because my voice has not yet been heard.
Who are you particularly disappointed with?
I can’t give names. Many of my former friends have leaned against the regime and have become even richer as the country and people have been brought economically to the brink. I know how many of these people talk about Turkey and President Erdogan when they are abroad. But even if they found the courage to talk like that in Turkey, it would be too late now.
What do you mean?
As already mentioned, I know a lot of people who are slowly getting back to me. They talk about repentance and the fact that they know what is going on around them. But they also say that there is nothing they can do. These are people from football, the entertainment industry, and even politicians. They understand what is happening, but they have no chance of changing anything. They are silent, otherwise they are threatened with death. You should have opened your mouth when I started addressing the grievances. Then we wouldn’t have these problems today. Today there isn’t even a platform in Turkey where you can express yourself freely.
What would happen today if you went to Turkey?
If I hadn’t left the country in 2015, they wouldn’t have let me live. Not the regime itself, but the fanatical supporters. If you speak out against the regime in Turkey, you will find these fanatics who see it as your duty to finish off your opponents. I left the AKP (the ruling party of Erdogan; d. Ed.) In 2013 after seeing the corruption and theft of the regime and realizing that I don’t want to have anything to do with it. After that, my wife’s shop was targeted, my children were molested, we were threatened. When I stopped working for my former pay TV station, my father-in-law canceled his subscription. The judiciary saw this as a sign that he showed solidarity with me and was persecuting him. If I entered today I would end up in jail and my family would have even more trouble. Can you imagine that? I who served my country through football and brought honor …
Before the 2018 World Cup, Ilkay Gündogan and Mesut Özil met with Erdogan …
I believe that one day they will regret meeting. But I don’t blame them for this meeting because they can’t see things the way I did, who lived in Turkey. And because they are surrounded by people loyal to the regime who benefit from the Erdogan system and who therefore drag the boys to these meetings. You cannot defend yourself against it. In general, the German-Turks have to recognize that their love for Turkey must be on the same level as their love for Germany. Germany is the country that has welcomed them with open arms, nourishes them and offers them a secure life.
Most recently you worked as a taxi driver. Are you still doing that?
No. I’m not doing much at the moment because I’m waiting for my US residency permit. If I get that, I’ll try to get back into football. Maybe I am training sports students, as I am currently doing on a voluntary basis with neighborhood children.