Hakan Sukur — living a life of an exile

Hakan Sukur, one of Turkey's greatest footballers, is now a fallen hero in his own country.

In the 2002 World Cup, Hakan Sukur scored against South Korea within 10.8 seconds of the start. Photo: Getty Images

Hakan Sukur, one of Turkey's greatest footballers, is now a fallen hero in his own country. Sukur, a UEFA Cup winner, who also played in a World Cup semifinal, now lives a life of an exile.

On his wedding day, he was clicked with the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and cleric Fethullah Gulen. Sukur, who represented his country in 112 matches, faces life imprisonment and possible death penalty even if he thinks of returning to the country. He faces charges of insulting the president and rebelling against the government. The love and adulation he once got in his country, is all gone.

Sukur was the record goal-scorer for Turkey and Galatasaray and came into more prominence in the 2002 World Cup, when he scored against South Korea within 10.8 seconds in a playoff match —  the fastest goal in an international tournament.

At 36, Sukur retired from the game and became an expert and later moved into politics. According to a story in The Guardian, because of his political leanings, Sukur became an MP for the ruling Justice and Development Party. But he continued to keep a good relationship with Gulen, the other man in his wedding photograph.

In 2013, the government started a crackdown on the schools run by Gulen, and then Sukur resigned from the party to become an independent MP. However, in 2016, he was indicted for insulting the president on social media.

Arrest warrant

During the trial, Sukur, in absentia, insisted he never intended to insult the president but the prosecutors argued that the tweets clearly targeted the president. In July 2013, there was a failed coup d'etat and the Gulenists were blamed for it and any Gulenist sympathiser was charged. In August, Sukur was issued an arrest warrant.

He, however, managed to escape to the U.S.. But his father was arrested and the family's property and other assets were confiscated. Sukur's father is also reported to have died in prison. The once famous footballer of Turkey can't think of returning to a place where he was adored.