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Turks May Have Time Off for Match

May 9, 2002

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s sports minister is proposing to proclaim a half-day holiday on June 3, so Turks can watch their team face Brazil in its first World Cup appearance since 1954.

Sports Minister Fikret Unlu will shortly make the proposal to the Cabinet, his office said Thursday.

``Everyone is expecting that the match can be watched by a large number of our people,″ Unlu said, the Anatolia news agency reported. ``It would at least be a half-day holiday.″

Turkey plays Brazil at 12:00 p.m. local time in group C first round competitions. The early hour is due to the six hour time difference with South Korea.

Turkish politicians often curry favor with the public by announcing unexpected public holidays, for example, by extending midweek religious holidays into a full week off. Some critics say the practice contributes to an already weak economy.

This time, few in this soccer-crazy country want to miss Turkey’s opening match.

``I will watch the game at any cost,″ said Bunyamin Ozen, a 38-year-old office worker on Thursday. ``My work can wait.″

But some are afraid that a holiday for the Brazil match might not be enough.

Like the Brazil match, Turkey will face Costa Rica on June 3 at 12:00 p.m. local time. The last first round game against China starts at 9:30 a.m. Turkish time.

Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Turkey, and millions of Turks could take to the streets following a national soccer victory.

Even skeptics consent that soccer could warrant time off.

``There are enough holidays in Turkey already but maybe we can have half a day or a couple of hours off,″ Senel Apaydin, an interior decorator, said Thursday. ``But if Turkey is in the finals, we should get the whole day off.″

Meanwhile, two days after receiving his first call-up to train with the Turkish national squad, defender Ismail Gulduren underwent knee surgery, shattering his hopes of playing at the World Cup, reports said Thursday.

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