Drogba, Eboue get Turkish sports minister's backing in Mandela tribute

Karim Farouk, Monday 9 Dec 2013

The Turkish official believes punishing the players would harm the image of his country

Galatasaray's Didier Drogba from Ivory Coast salutes soccer fans as he wears a jersey in sign of respect for Nelson Mandela before their Turkish League match with Elazigspor in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Ivory Coast duo Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue can take a sigh of relief after Turkey's sports minister offered his support for the players' recent on-field tribute to late South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Both players removed their Galatasaray club shirts after Friday's match against SB Elazigspor, revealing t-shirts that read "Thank You Madiba" and "Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela."

The Turkish football association summoned both players and said that they would face disciplinary sanctions for breaking a rule which forbids political slogans and messages on t-shirts.

Turkey's sports minister, Suat Kilic, told reporters on Monday, however, that he didn't think the sanctions would be a good decision for "the image of Turkey" or the players' "freedom of expression."

The minister's intervention most likely means the Ivorian players will receive very reduced sanctions.

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