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Turkey and Galatasaray legend Hakan Sukur has revealed he is now an Uber driver in the United States and sells books for a living after being exiled from his home country by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sukur retired from football in 2008 and joined Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2011. He served as an MP in Istanbul for four years, but in 2013 he left the AKP to serve as an independent.
“Then the hostility started. Stones were thrown at my wife’s boutique, my children were harassed on the street.
“I received threats after every statement I made. When I had left, they locked up my father—and everything I owned was confiscated.
“I have nothing left anywhere in the world. Erdogan took everything from me. My right to freedom, the right to explain myself, to express myself, the right to work.”
Turkish authorities issued a warrant for Sukur’s arrest in August 2016, a month after the government fended off a failed coup attempt.
Sukur had previously expressed support for cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accused of leading the coup.
The 48-year-old had moved to the U.S., where he ran a cafe in California, shortly before the coup attempt, which he condemned on Twitter after the arrest warrant was issued.
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Sukur explained to Welt am Sonntag he decided to leave the AKP was because “Erdogan’s politics led to bad times,” but he denied any wrongdoing: “I only did things that are legal.”
“Can they show me a crime that I have committed?” he added. “No. They just say ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist.'”
His father, Sermet Sukur, was also issued an arrest warrant in 2016. He was taken into custody in Hakan’s hometown of Adapazari and imprisoned.
According to Goal, both of his parents have been diagnosed with cancer. Following the diagnosis, his father, who served as Hakan’s agent during his playing career, was released and placed under house arrest.
Sukur said it is a “very difficult time for them” and that everybody he associated with in Turkey now has “financial difficulties.”
Sukur also said a Turkish student was jailed for 14 months after taking a selfie with him during a visit to the United States.
Sukur is Turkey’s all-time top scorer, having bagged 51 goals in 112 matches. He has more than double the goals of their next-highest scorer, Burak Yilmaz, who has 24.
He was also part of the Turkey side that finished third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he scored once.
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The striker spent the bulk of his career with Galatasaray, scoring 284 goals in 518 appearances, according to Transfermarkt. His efforts helped the club win eight Super Lig titles, five Turkish Cups and the UEFA Cup.
Sukur was banned from Galatasaray in 2017, a decision he says came from Erdogan rather than the club.
In his native Turkey, he also played for Bursaspor and Sakaryaspor, with whom he won another Turkish Cup.