ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey lodged a formal protest Monday against authorities in Iceland over the way its national soccer team was treated on its arrival for a European Championship qualifying match.
The Turkish team has complained that it was delayed at Keflavik Airport on Sunday while officials searched bags at a slow pace. Icelandic airport officials have defended the searches as routine and sought to blame the delay on some of the Turkish players for not being cooperative.
Frustration escalated once the team was through security, when an unidentified man held a cleaning brush up to team captain Emre Belezoglu who was speaking to media. Video footage shows the brush popping up toward Belezoglu's face as if it was a microphone.
Turkish media have slammed the treatment as "disrespectful" and "racist" and the country's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in a tweet it was "unacceptable from the point of diplomatic and humane practices."
Iceland's ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that a formal protest has been lodged.
The Turkish team flew to Iceland for Tuesday's European qualifier at the Laugardalsvöllur stadium in the capital Reykjavík. It had come from the Turkish city of Konya after beating world champion France 2-0 on Saturday in a Group H qualifier.
Iceland's airport operator, ISAVIA, said the inspections were mandatory for arrivals from outside the remit of agreements with the European Union. However, it acknowledged that the team had waited longer than usual to clear security due to a lack of cooperation.
"Requests to remove electronics and liquid were not entirely met," the operator said in a statement.
Still, it said that the procedure was "swift" and that the players had got through customs within 80 minutes from landing — disputing Turkish media reports of a two-hour long wait.
Iceland's team also said they have had to deal with delays on returning home too, notably in 2015 after returning from Konya.
"It was similar. Passport control and detailed bag inspection," said Iceland captain Aron Gunnarsson at a Monday press conference.
Iceland coach Erik Hamren would not comment on the issue in a press briefing ahead of the match.
"I focus on the football," he said.
Vidir Reynisson, director of security for the Icelandic Football Association, told The Associated Press that no extra security measures have been put in place for the game.
Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.