Beckham nemesis Ozalan candidate for Erdogan party in Turkey polls


Istanbul (AFP)

Former Turkey international footballer Alpay Ozalan, who famously taunted David Beckham in a Euro 2004 qualifier, is one of several personalities from outside politics standing for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party in June elections, it announced Monday.

Turkey will on June 24 vote in presidential and parliamentary elections and parties are now submitting the names of candidates to the authorities.

As well as Ozalan, other ruling party candidates for MP from sport include former world wrestling champion Selcuk Cebi and recently retired Supersport motorbike racer Kenan Sofuoglu.

Ozalan, who played some 90 times for Turkey, is well remembered in Britain for his notorious October 2003 clash with Beckham in a tense Euro qualifier in Istanbul.

The English player was awarded a penalty but then struck it sky high over the crossbar after slipping just before contact. A gleeful Ozalan then went up to Beckham and poked his nose. Beckham contemplated hitting back but thought better of it.

There was later a fracas in the tunnel with Beckham claiming Ozalan "said something nasty" about his mother. The game was drawn 0-0, allowing England to qualify for the Euro 2004.

Ozalan is the second name on the list of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the second district of Turkey's third city of Izmir, meaning he stands a fair chance of being elected.

Pro-AKP Twitter users posted admiring pictures of Ozalan squaring up to Beckman in 2003.

"Beckham does not stand for MP like a man but here the man who squeezed his nose, Alpay Ozalan, can. Very interesting," commented one.

The bad blood created by the incident spelt the end of Ozalan's career at Aston Villa in the Premier League for whom he had played since 2000.

Ozalan, now 44, went on to play in Asia and for Cologne. He has since managed Eskisehirspor and Samsunspor in Turkey.

He will be hoping for better fortunes in politics than another famous name to enter parliament for the AKP, Hakan Sukur, who played a key role in Turkey's run to third place in the 2002 World Cup and scored the fastest goal in World Cup history.

Sukur fell out with the AKP and is now wanted by Turkey on charges of links to the group of preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed putsch. He now lives in exile in the United States.