Hakan Şükür is a well-known name to many football fans around the world – and is known as one of Turkey’s most high-profile sportsman of all time.
While at one point Şükür was one of the darling’s of Turkey, these days, the footballer is wanted by Turkish law enforcement agencies. So how did it get to this point?
Who is Hakan Şükür?
Şükür had a distinguished footballing career. He primarily played for Galatasary – one of Turkey’s best-known and successful clubs. Over his career, he won a plethora of titles and trophies, as well as individual accolades.
Şükür was also an instrumental part of the Turkish national team that enjoyed success from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Şükür was a key part of the Turkey team that impressively made it to the Semi-Finals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
He retired in 2008, following a glittering career. His retirement was met with tributes around Turkey and afar. His stock was high. Many expected Şükür to ride off into the sunset – but this wasn’t the case, far from it.
It is what happened following his retirement that led to controversy developing. Şükür opted to go into politics in 2011, and was initially a supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He became a Member of Parliament (MP) under Erdogan, having been a part of his ruling Justice and Development Party. Şükür and Erdogan bonded, and the latter acted as a witness at Şükür’s wedding – a very rare act from a sitting President.
Şükür was popular among his constituents, and was seen as a key part of Erdogan’s party – with his popularity from his football days seen as a big boost for Erdogan.
But everything went wrong within a few years. During his time as an MP, Şükür was a close friend to cleric Fethullah Gulen. He resigned from Erdogan’s party in 2013, and sat as an independent.
In February 2016, Şükür was charged under Article 299 of the Turkish penal code – on the grounds of insulting Erdogan on Twitter.
By 2016, tensions in Turkey were high, amidst growing unease at Erdogan’s ruling party. This led to a coup d’etat in July against Erdogan, which was quelled by his forces.
The coup was blamed on followers of Gulen. After being urged to denounce Gulen in the aftermath of the failed coup, Şükür refused to do – causing Şükür’s reputation to be hit.
A warrant for Şükür’s arrest was issued in August 2016, due to Şükür being a member of the “Gulen movement”. Şükür fled from Turkey to the United States.
Living in USA
Hakan Şükür settled in the United States. He was initially working in a restaurant in California, but left in December 2018 due to the appearance of what he called “strange” people in the bar.
He was interviewed in 2020 by The Sun newspaper. At this point, Şükür said that he was working as an Uber driver. He remarked that he was not “a traitor or a terrorist”.
Şükür told the reporter how all of his assets had been seized in Turkey since he fled. He said that he had “tens of millions of dollars of property” in Turkey – which he cannot get his hands on.
He said about how all of his family back in Turkey had been discriminated and harrassed. But despite this, Şükür has said that he still loves his country.
To this day, Şükür remains an Uber driver, and also sells books about his past. There are stories online of how people have had great journeys with Şükür, involving a high level of shock when they find out who their driver is.
The ill feeling towards Şükür has not dissipated in recent times. At the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Alper Bakircigil – a commentator for Turkish television – mentioned a record made by Şükür. Extraordinarily, Bakircigil was removed from the broadcast at half time, and was fired later in the day. The Turkish government have clearly not forgotten.
It is scarcely believable that a man that once had the popularity of Hakan Şükür will now surely never set foot in his home country ever again. Whilst many people in Turkey still support him, his name is a controversial topic.
It seems that the two sides are at an impassable point – Şükür is unlikely to ever return to Turkey, and the current President is unlikely to forgive him any time soon. It is a very sad fall from grace.