Public fury mounts over Hizmet-Fenerbahçe controversy

May 24, 2012, Thursday/ 16:05:00

Public outrage over allegations suggesting that the Hizmet movement is aiming to seize control of Turkish football team Fenerbahçe continues to snowball, with many sports figures slamming the allegations for being manipulative efforts to defame the movement.

Since the start of a match-fixing investigation in July 2011 which led to the imprisonment of dozens of sports figures -- including Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım -- some circles have claimed that the Hizmet movement, led by renowned Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is behind the investigation with the aim of eventually seizing control of the club.

The allegations intensified when Fenerbahçe lost the title of champion to its rival Galatasaray on May 12 and Fenerbahçe fans were subsequently involved in acts of violence.

Hakan Bilal Kutlualp, a former Fenerbahçe vice president, said targeting the Hizmet movement is a lie which is based on a groundless argument and that real Fenerbahçe fans will never believe in this lie.

“Within the 25 million Fenerbahçe fans, there are fans who have set their hearts on Hizmet. No power can make Fenerbahçe confront those working for this country and the state. The liars will not be able to perpetuate their lies and Fenerbahçe fans will see the truth,” he said. A former Fenerbahçe administrator, Davut Dişli said he was very saddened by the allegations and speeches of some Fenerbahçe officials who believe in these allegations. “It is unacceptable for Gülen to be dragged into such allegations,” he said.

Claims that the Hizmet movement ordered Turkey's prosecutors to initiate the match-fixing operation to “seize control of Fenerbahçe” and damage Turkey's secular nature heated up last week after a message posted on Twitter by journalist Ergun Babahan. In the aftermath of the Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray match, Babahan tweeted some remarks that were interpreted as an insult to Gülen. Babahan later offered an apology for the remarks.

Many say the match-fixing probe is a historic opportunity for Turkey to “get rid of the rotten apples” in the sports world. Yıldırım is accused of running a terrorist organization that has fixed dozens of football matches in Turkey to date. Numerous club administrators, football players and journalists have been arrested for suspected links to this terrorist organization.

Celal Doğan, a former president of Gaziantepspor and a current member of the Fenerbahçe congress, said it is possible to encounter conspiracy theories everywhere in Turkey and some people just target certain people and institutions to defame their names.

“What kind of benefit can the movement derive by seizing control of Fenerbahçe?” asked Doğan.

Former Fenerbahçe captain Ümit Özat also voiced his criticisms about the allegations against the Hizmet movement and asked: How can Hizmet take control of Fenerbahçe now when it has not done so for many years?

According to Metin Diyadin, a former Fenerbahçe player, allegations about Hizmet are sheer manipulation. He said he does not believe such a thing could ever be possible.

“I have never encountered any such attempt [from the Hizmet movement] during my years in Fenerbahçe. I don't believe in the allegations,” he said.

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