PSG coach Tuchel saddened by France-Turkey tensions

Istanbul (AFP) –


Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel said Tuesday he was "sad but not worried" by tensions between France and Turkey ahead of their Champions League match against Istanbul Basaksehir.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led the charge against his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during an escalating war of words in a row over the freedom to mock religion.

Macron has robustly defended the right to free expression, including to mock religion, amid revulsion in France over the beheading of a schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

"We've heard things but we're not worried," said Tuchel, whose side play the Turkish champions in Group H on Wednesday.

"Personally I'm sad that it's not possible for everyone to live together in harmony, because I really think each of us wants to live in harmony.

"That's why I'm a bit sad, but not worried. I hope there won't be overlapping between sport and politics."

PSG are hoping to pick up their first points of the group stage following a 2-1 loss to Manchester United last week.

Tuchel insisted the main focus for his side was kickstarting their European campaign despite the diplomatic friction surrounding the tie.

"I haven't spoken about it with my players. Maybe we're going to do it because we're not just athletes, not just footballers," he said.

"But the concern is primarily a sporting one and it's a privilege for us to be able to play in the Champions League."

Defender Presnel Kimpembe said the issue of strained relations between the two countries was beyond their remit.

"We're a football team. As long as UEFA gives us the permission to come play here, we're coming to play our match and go home," he said.

"What's happening politically is not our responsibility."