Journalist Ecevit Kılıç, who discusses a mafia-football relationship in Turkey in his book, “Kirli Kramponlar” (Dirty Cleats), says football agent Sedat Peker, who is also a well-known mafia boss, and his crew have been coming out of the woodwork during the recent match-fixing investigation.
Highlighting the close relationship between Peker and jailed Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım, the journalist argues that the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was scared of Yıldırım’s power, so it decided not to take any action until the indictment is completed by public prosecutor Mehmet Berk, who is spearheading the match-fixing investigation.
Kılıç underscores the existence of a gang and its extensions that maintain the match-fixing culture in Turkey. “When we look at the history from 1997-98 onward, we keep seeing Peker. There are club chairmen who were tried at State Security Court (DGM), football agents, coaches and even footballers who benefited from his power,” Kılıç told Sunday’s Zaman.
The journalist explains that the relationship between the mafia boss and Fenerbahçe chairman started in 1998 when Yıldırım was elected as chairman. “At that time, the mafia had a say in all big clubs. They supported certain candidates. Yıldırım won the elections with one extra vote against Vefa Küçük.”
Peker helped Yıldırım hold the top seat in Fenerbahçe when he was abroad as he was sought on charges of establishing a criminal gang. Yıldırım, accompanied by the entire board, visited Peker in Romania where he was hiding. “Peker verified this. He said they came to have a tea and coffee together. Yıldırım denied this. After that incident, the bond that held them together became stronger. They only had one problem. Peker wanted to appoint [Sivasspor’s jailed Chairman Mecnun] Odyakmaz as coordinator of the club’s infrastructure. But Yıldırım couldn’t take that risk. Odyakmaz was suspect number two. He was on trial. Their [Yıldırım and Peker’s] relationship reached a breaking point, but they recovered.”
According to Kılıç, Peker and Yıldırım were also behind the incident in which former Fenerbahçe goalkeeper Rüştü Reçber was beaten by Fenerbahçe fans after a Turkish Cup game against Pendikspor. In 1999, Fenerbahçe was defeated by second division side Pendikspor at home and eliminated from the competition.
“Mecnun Odyakmaz’s taking over the top post at Sivasspor was supported by Aziz Yıldırım as much as Sedat Peker,” Kılıç adds.
Sedat Peker factor
Kılıç notes that Peker is the key name in match-fixing activities in the football industry in Turkey. Despite his young age, 40-year-old Peker began to be an important figure behind the scenes in Turkish football, he states. “He has some duties given by the [deep] state or the people who are affiliated with the [deep] state. We participated in an interview during the 2002 World Cup. A footballer was playing badly and he said, ‘I will call and take him out of the game.’ He has such a power. He got this power from the club administrations and federation. He controlled Sivasspor, Rizespor and Giresunspor at one time. If Bülent Uygun [who is currently in custody as part of the ongoing match-fixing probe] took the coaching job in Eskişehirspor, he would have controlled that club too. The people who are close to him [Peker] hold the coaching or chairman posts,” he explains, adding, “He is most effective at Fenerbahçe. He shares a weird shared destiny with Yıldırım.”
The mafia was much more effective in the late 1990s, according to Kılıç, who says federation chairmen were decided by the mafia at that time. Mafia wars were taking place behind the elections of the federation chair. The elections for the chair of the federation in 1997 saw a competition between different mafia groups and Haluk Ulusoy become the federation president of the time, Kılıç explains. Peker was also managing the money of many A-class footballers in Turkey on the stock market. “Footballers used to get help from Peker in all their businesses,” he says.
The journalist argues that Peker is a powerful actor in Turkish football and his people manage an important part of Turkish football. “Bülent Uygun wasn’t included; he came later. [Jailed football agent] Olgun Peker has always been there. There used to be former Trabzonspor deputy Chairman Atilla Yıldırım; he later pulled away. At times, his [Sedat Peker’s] brother, Vedat Peker, served as the president of Rizespor. Sedat Peker is on top; these people are around him. Olgun Peker manages a football agency. This agency has complete control over the transfer of domestic footballers in Turkey. This system works for club managers as well. If you want to a footballer you can get him via this gang, and it would cost you less.”
According to Kılıç, match-fixing activities will continue as long as the federation chooses to “keep the dirt despite having the chance to fix it.”
“If the federation chose to take action [which would be against Fenerbahçe as the club is at the center of the allegations with senior managers currently in custody while the investigation is in progress], Yıldırım would definitely speak [about the dirty relationships in Turkish football]. The TFF was scared of that. Secondly, they were scared that the football economy would be harmed,” Kılıç claims, adding, “Club chairmen can be happy about the decision but Fenerbahçe fans will receive [negative] reactions.”