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Turkey showers soccer team in gold

© Reuters 2002

ANKARA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Turkey showered its football players in gold on Wednesday, handing out more than half a million dollars in gold coins to the squad and coaching staff who came third in the 2002 FIFA World Cup".

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit awarded 600 Turkish Republican gold coins to coach Senol Gunes, an award worth around $42,000. His two assistant coaches each received 150 coins.

The 23 squad players, already some of the highest paid and wealthiest men in crisis-hit Turkey, each received 300 gold coins, according to the Anatolian news agency. The average annual income per head in Turkey is just over $2,000.

Turkey finished third in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan" in only their second appearance in the finals after beating co-hosts South Korea 3-2 in the third-place playoff.

The success came as the country was in the depths of its worst recession since 1945, with hundreds of thousands out of work and the government in crisis as the 77-year-old Ecevit was bedridden with illness.

"I watched the matches in South Korea and Japan from my sickbed," Ecevit said at the award ceremony. "It was a magic potion for me." Turkey are now campaigning for a place in the 2004 European championship finals. They play their next qualifiers against Macedonia on October 12 and Liechtenstein on October 16 in group seven which also includes England and Slovakia.

The players and coaches were also awarded Turkey's Supreme Service Medals, one of the country's highest honours.

Reports provided by

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