Born in Austria to Turkish parents, 21-year-olds Veli Kavlak, Yasin Pehlivan and Tanju Kayhan may feel the pull of the old country as SK Rapid Wien host Beşiktaş JK in Group L.
SK Rapid Wien's Veli Kavlak, Yasin Pehlivan and Tanju Kayhan may face a test of their loyalty in UEFA Europa League Group L as they come up against a team from their parents' home country, Beşiktaş JK.
Turkish television crews were eager to interview the Viennese-born trio ahead of Thursday's game, which is also a hot topic among the Austrian capital's substantial Turkish community. Midfielder Kavlak said on behalf of his fellow 21-year-olds: "For us it's the match of the year, our first against a Turkish team. It's special and we are very excited."
Promising wing-back Kayhan, whose family hail from Yozgat in central Anatolia, was aware that some of the locals would be willing Beşiktaş on at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. "There will be a 50,000 crowd, including a few thousand Viennese Turkish people, but our fans will be three times as loud as they can be," he said. "So if we play with a lot of discipline and take our chances, I'm sure we will win."
Both Kavlak and defensive midfielder Pehlivan have been capped eight times by Austria, but their Turkish heritage is still apparent in their footballing lives. They admitted before the Beşiktaş match to be fans of the Black Eagles' local rivals Galatasaray AŞ. Kayhan, however, had little interest in the Süper Lig. Asked whether he had a favourite Turkish club, he told UEFA.com: "No, I don't. I am a Rapid fan."
However, it is Kayhan – who spent 11 years in Rapid's youth department – who arguably feels the pull of his parents' homeland most at the moment. The Austrian Under-21 international's family come from "a village close to Ankara", and he is yet to choose which nation to represent at senior level – a big issue since Austria meet Turkey twice in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying.
"Right now I am not thinking about it," he told UEFA.com. "I would like to be involved in those games, but I do not know who I will be playing for. Maybe Turkey, maybe Austria. I can still play for both."
At least when his team kick off against Beşiktaş he will know which side he is on. Tayhan, Kavlak and Pehlivan's plight may have caught the imagination, but when it comes to club loyalties Rapid rule supreme. Asked whether they might be inclined to go gently on Beşiktaş, they replied as one: "No mercy!"