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What ON EARTH Is Happening In Turkish Football?

3 minute read Published April 9, 2024

Turkey and the Super Lig has long been a destination for “slightly past their prime”, such as Icardi and Dzeko, and “not quite good enough for the big five leagues”, like Eric Bailly and Michy Batshuayi, footballers that still wants to play European football. Its top teams are often quite competitive in Europe and it’s a breeding ground for talent. 

Turkey also has possibly the most committed fans in football. The noise at games is deafening and the tifo and pyro is huge. Like, there’s a Galatasaray fan club in every larger city in the world. And sometimes, they’re committed to a fault.

Lately, the focus hasn’t been on the field. Well, on the field maybe, but it hasn’t been about playing football. Last weekend, it was time for the final of the Turkish Supercup. Galatasaray took on Fenerbahce. 

The game in itself was shrouded in controversy. It was originally scheduled to be played in Saudi Arabia. But, when the Saudi government wouldn’t allow the teams to perform a pre-game tribute to Kamal Ataturk, the teams refused to play. It was rescheduled to Sunday, last weekend.

The problem was that Fenebahce had made it all the way to the quarter finals of the Europa Conference League and because of game congestion had asked to have the game rescheduled. Something that the Turkish football federation refused.

So, Fenerbahce sent a youth team to play. They let in a goal after 49 seconds and promptly left the field in protest against the federation. This was planned ahead. In a statement on their website after the protest Fenerbahce president Ali Koc said:

It is time for a ‘reset’ for Turkish football. We are in a period when the swamp must be drained and Turkish football must rebuild itself.

Ali Koc, President at Fenerbahce. Photo: Shutterstock

Field storming in Trabzon

The protest and the statement comes on the heels of another infected situation. A few weeks ago Fenerbahce played Trabzonspor in the league. The Istanbul club won the game 2-3 after an 87th minute winner from Michy Batshuayi. However, it was after the full time whistle was blown that emotions really got hot. 

The Trabzonspor fans were less than impressed with the Fenerbahce players' celebrations and stormed the field. It all happened too quickly for all the players to get off the field and a few ended up even fist fighting the fans. 

Check out the scenes from Trabzon in this video

After the game, Ali Koc was livid. He said that the club was going to withdraw from the league unless the club and fans were appropriately punished. Where would they go? A number of options were discussed with La Liga being the most discussed option. Trabzonspor got a six game stadium ban for fans. 

The club went so far as to get the green light from sponsors and members for the withdrawal. At a meeting in the beginning of April, however, the club decided to stay in the Süper Lig. 

It’s fair to say that Turkish football is in a bad state. The clubs are fed up with the way the sport is handled. Selling games to Saudi Arabia, fans storming the field and not considering clubs European football commitments are just symptoms of a larger issues. 

The clubs are also having a tough time financially. Just this winter, Turkeys third club, Besiktas, terminated the contracts of multiple players, among them Eric Bailly. The official reason was that they weren’t fitting in and not honouring their commitments. But it’s very likely a money issue. 

So will Turkish football be overhauled? Can the federation change enough to the point where players can feel safe stepping out onto the field? It’s a very big ship to turn around and we surely haven’t heard the last word in this circus. 

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