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September 21, 2017

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Erdogan 'scores hat-trick' in Turkey soccer friendly

ISTANBUL--Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan scored an improbable three goals in just 15 minutes as he took to the field in a soccer friendly to mark the opening of a new stadium in Istanbul.

Erdogan is standing in presidential elections on Aug. 10 and made sure no one forgot his candidacy during the game by wearing the shirt number 12 — if elected he would be the 12th president of modern Turkey.

The 60-year-old prime minister, an avid soccer fan who played as an amateur in his youth, took part in a match to mark the opening of the new stadium of the Istanbul Basaksehir team.

Clad in a bright orange soccer strip, Erdogan saw his team fall behind 0-3 in the opening minutes of the game late on Saturday.

But then with almost his first touch of the ball, he smashed a shot past the goalkeeper and into the net with an impressive right foot strike.

Then ever better was to come, when he sent a deft left-footed chip flying over the goalkeeper's head.

Some 15 minutes after the first goal, Erdogan completed his hat-trick with a somewhat easier shot after being given almost all the time in the world by the opposing team's defenders.

His night's work done, Erdogan was substituted and eventually watched his team turn out as easy winners. Just hours earlier, he had given a campaign speech in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in Turkey's southeast.

The game was given live coverage on Turkish state television with the commentator yelling with excitement as Erdogan scored his goals.

"Our prime minister scored one classy goal after another. It was a unique experience to have the chance to play with our prime minister," said the goalkeeper on Erdogan's side, Ufuk Ceylan, who will play for Basaksehir this season.

Erdogan was given a rousing reception on the pitch where supporters held up adulatory placards like "As long as you live, Turkey will remain the champion."

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