Soccer-Germany's Turks give 'host nation' welcome to Turkey

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Fans gather for Turkey v Georgia - Dortmund, Germany - June 18, 2024 Turkey fans are seen before the match REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

DORTMUND/MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Turkey fans draped in the country's red flag celebrated ahead of the country's first match of Euro 2024 against neighbour Georgia in Dortmund on Tuesday, creating a festival atmosphere akin to a host nation to welcome the team.

Almost 3 million people with Turkish roots live in Germany, following a wave of official migration that began in the 1960s. The close ties are reflected in both the German and Turkish football teams. Germany captain Ilkay Gundogan has Turkish roots, while Turkey's midfielder Salih Ozcan, was born in Cologne and plays for Borussia Dortmund.

Ozcan has said the team needs to capitalise on the large Turkish population and passionate support in Germany.

Heavy rain and forecasts of thunder storms closed Dortmund's 25,000 capacity fan zone and other giant viewing spots in the cities of North Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, but fans en route to the stadium made good on their promise to make some noise. Berlin's two fan zones were also closed due to bad weather.

"Our hearts beat for Turkey, for home. Of course Germany is also home for us but we are Turks," said fan Cengiz Catalpinar.

Mehmet Guelcicek had driven for two days from Zurich in Switzerland to reach Dortmund and watch the match.

"We are Turks and always there with the team."

Many Turks were also celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, when typically animals such as sheep are sacrificed.

Ugur Aydin walked with an inflatable sheep.

"We saved him from the Eid sacrifice festival and are celebrating our own festival today with a 3 point win over Georgia. And hopefully the same again for the next two games, against Portugal and the Czech Republic," he said.

Turkey begin their Euro 2024 campaign against newcomers Georgia knowing a winning start in one of the tournament's weaker groups would give them a great chance of making the knockout stages after disappointing last time around.

In hot sunshine in Munich in southern Germany fans began to stream into the city's fan zone.

"This is a big deal for us and it is great to be in Germany for the tournament, to join with the Turkish community here. We are the second hosts," said Erdem Sakinc, a 21-year-old student from Ankara studying in Germany.

Georgia, meanwhile, are playing in their first ever major tournament and are the clear underdogs

Georgia fan Veronika Gogokhia said, "This is a historical moment for our country and our team. This is a debut and the whole of Georgia, all Georgians all over the world are really excited," she said.

Later on Tuesday at the stadium around 40 fans from each set of supporters were involved in brief scuffles and police moved in between them, a Reuters reporter inside the stadium said.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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