Second-division German soccer club St. Pauli are famous for their leftist values. The club demonstrated just how deep those values run on Monday by releasing Turkish player Cenk Şahin after he had publicly supported his country’s deployment of military personnel into Syria last week.
Şahin posted a message of support for what Turkey called a counter-terrorism operation into northeastern Syria, following the removal of U.S. troops. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, claims the operation’s goal is to combat terrorism in the area; others have denounced the deployment as an attack on Kurds more generally.
Şahin’s Instagram post, which has since been deleted, read “We’re on the side of our heroic military and armies. Our prayers are with you!” alongside a Turkish flag. Here’s a screenshot of the image:
St. Pauli announced on Monday that they had released Şahin from the club, saying that the “prime factors in reaching the decisions were his repeated disregard for the club’s values and the need to protect the player.” The club’s fanbase had raised a furor over Şahin’s post, accusing the player of being a supporter of war and violence, which go against the values the club and its supporters proudly tout.
St. Pauli confirmed that they will continue to pay Şahin under the terms of the contract until he is able to sign with a new team. In the meantime, the 25-year-old attacker will be free to speak to and train with any other club.
St. Pauli had previously stood up for former player Deniz Naki in 2016, who had then been convicted in Turkey, where he was playing at the time, for “separatist and ideological propaganda.” Naki, who is of Kurdish-German descent, was suspended for 12 matches by the Turkish Football Federation for posting on Facebook that he dedicated a victory to “those killed and wounded under the oppression that has gone on for 50 days in our land,” according to Kurdistan24.
St. Pauli players wore uniforms with their former teammate’s name on them before the first game after Naki’s suspension. The club itself posted a photo stating its solidarity with Naki: