Euro semi-final referee gives Turks reason to smile
Missing out on Euro 2012 was painful for soccer-mad Turkey but having a Turkish referee at the finals has helped restore some pride to a country still smarting from match-fixing allegations and high-profile arrests.
Cuneyt Cakir, a 35-year-old Istanbul native who runs an insurance branch office, is the youngest referee at the tournament and will take charge of the semi-final between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk on Wednesday.
“Cuneyt Cakir… makes us Turks smile once again through his appointment to blow his whistle at the Euro semi-final,” newspaper Milliyet wrote this week.
Hurriyet newspaper said on Wednesday the Iberian clash would resemble Spain’s El Clasico and was a great honor for Cakir.
Cakir, whose father was a referee, regularly officiates at the notoriously volatile derbies between the three major Istanbul clubs.
Turkey, semi-finalists at Euro 2008, lost to Croatia in a playoff for the Euro 2012 finals after finishing second behind Germany in their qualifying group.
However, Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil, who was born in Gelsenkirchen but whose family hail from Turkey, is another favorite with the Turkish public.
Ahram online sports