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Non-native Turks pen letters of pride for Euro 2008

June 7, 2008

Turkish delight?The Turkish Football Federation has handed out a glossy brochure to reporters entitled “Letters to Euro 2008″.

The book, available in Turkish and English, is a collection of letters written by players and coaching staff in their own handwriting and detailing their thoughts about the tournament and the national team.

The letters throw light on why some of the players, including German-born Hamit Altintop, French-born Mevlut Erdinc and Kazim Kazim, born Colin Kazim-Richards in London, England, opted to play for Turkey instead of the country of their birth.

“I totally feel like a Turkish player,” writes Mehmet Aurelio, who was born Marco Aurelio Brito dos Prazeres in Rio de Janeiro but took Turkish citizenship in 2006 and changed his name.

“When the national anthem is played, I can feel my heart trembling,” he adds.

Kazim, who plays for Fenerbahce and scored a fabulous goal against Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals in April, says he chose Turkey “because success is more appreciated there”.

Kazim’s father is of Caribbean descent and his mother is Turkish Cypriot.

“When you look at me I might not seem like a typical Turk but actually I am,” he writes. “When I walk in the streets of London, nobody could know that I’m Turkish. In that case, to be called up to the national team is like a dream come true for me.”

Gelsenkirchen-born Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit, whose brother Halil plays for Schalke 04 but failed to make the final Euro 2008 squad, says that as “hot prospects” a few years ago he and Halil received an offer to play for Germany.

“But without even hesitating I have told them I would like to play for Turkey instead,” he writes.

PHOTO: A Turkey fan gestures before the Group A Euro 2008 soccer match against Portugal at the Stade de Geneve in Geneva REUTERS/Fatih Saribas

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