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DATELINE WORLD CUP 2002 / TURKEY

Prime Minister Grants Time Off to Watch Team

June 25, 2002|Jim Barrero

Turkey's prime minister granted civil servants a half-day off so they can watch their national soccer team compete in its first World Cup semifinal match.

"I know everyone in our country is waiting for Wednesday in excitement and hope," Bulent Ecevit, who is recovering from a series of illnesses at home, said in a prepared statement.

Turkey faces Brazil in the semifinals.

Turkey's parliament will work in the evening so legislators too can watch the match, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Turkey is making its first appearance in the World Cup since 1954 and this soccer-crazy country is reveling in the team's success. Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets on Saturday after Turkey defeated Senegal, 1-0, in overtime to advance to the semifinals.

Lawmaker Yasar Topcu, who represents the Black Sea city of Sinop in parliament, proposed giving players $200,000 each and a medal of honor for making it to the semifinals. He said that amount should be increased to $400,000 if Turkey wins the cup.

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