ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey captain Arda Turan said on Tuesday he was quitting the national team after a bust-up with a reporter on the squad’s flight back from a friendly international in Macedonia.
Speaking to reporters at Turkey’s training camp in Slovenia, the Barcelona midfielder said he had made a mistake while representing his country, and was ending a career with the national team which saw him win 94 caps and score 17 goals.
But he said he did not regret the clash with Milliyet newspaper reporter Bilal Mese on the flight back from Macedonia, where Turkey drew 0-0 on Monday, saying Mese had insulted him during the Euro 2016 tournament hosted by France.
Broadcaster CNN Turk quoted Mese as saying Turan attacked him shortly after boarding the plane, hurling insults and swinging punches at him despite being restrained by another journalist, a security guard, and team personnel on board.
He said he would take legal action against Turan.
“At first, I thought he was joking...Then, one of his punches swung by,” CNN Turk quoted Mese as saying.
Commenting on the events on the flight to Slovenia, where Turkey will train before a World Cup qualifier in Kosovo on Sunday, Turan said the reporter had spread rumours and slander and insulted his family values while covering Euro 2016.
“I made a mistake while wearing the national team uniform. It was something that should not have happened on the national team plane,” he said, adding however that he felt no remorse.
“Do I regret it? No, I feel like a bird because I never forgot what was said about me,” he said.
“I am putting an end to my national team career. I am speaking as someone who has served at every level of the national team, who loves his country and is in love with this jersey,” Turan said.
Turan was widely criticised for a disappointing performance at Euro 2016. The most capped player in the squad, the 29-year-old joined Barcelona from Atletico Madrid in July 2015.
Turkey are fourth in the World Cup qualifying Group I standings with eight points from five matches, five points adrift of leaders Croatia and two behind second-placed Iceland.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ken Ferris