Coaches and chairpersons of Turkey's football clubs have taken the football-as-war analogy to new levels this week, with increasingly harsh statements and recriminations regarding the ongoing match-fixing scandal in Turkish football, with one even suggesting that Turkey's current football woes are a more dangerous problem than the Kurdish question.
On Wednesday evening, Trabzonspor coach Şenol Güneş said Turkey is in a very dangerous state. “There is a secret danger growing in every field. We are seeing events whose scale is larger than the southeastern question,” he said in televised remarks, referring to Turkey's three-decade-long fight with the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Güneş spoke to Lig TV, the authorized broadcaster for games in the Turkish Super League, after a game between his team and Galatasaray that ended 0-0, saying justice and peace need to be established first for football to go on. “Where there is no peace, there is no justice. I think we will lose the peace we have as we look for justice. We are on a dangerous path,” he said.
He also retorted to remarks from Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman last week implying that Trabzonspor and Galatasaray might have fixed a recent game. Güneş in his statement said Kocaman was being manipulated by some individuals. He said he had been unjustly accused many times before. “There is an invisible danger in all this. If you are powerful, you are right.” He also said he did not expect Kocaman to apologize to Galatasaray or Trabzonspor.
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim, speaking on Wednesday, was as harsh as the Trabzonspor coach. Not naming but referring to Kocaman, he said, “If a person wants respect, they must first respect the labors of others.” Terim said Kocaman and his team were undergoing immense stress over the past year, noting that he understood it is difficult to carry such a burden.
Trabzonspor Club Chairman Sadri Şener also made new statements on Thursday. He reiterated his earlier outrage at a recent Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decision to change Article 58 of the federation’s disciplinary regulations to punish match-fixing attempts with point deduction only, as opposed to the previous version of the article, which stipulated relegation of a team. TFF President Yıldırım Demirören announced the amendment on Monday in a press conference, which caused much outrage and contributed to the dose of anger in most of the recent statements. In a more controversial remark, Demirören said the TFF’s Ethics Committee had found no evidence indicating that the match-fixing attempts influenced the outcome of any of the games last season.
Speaking to Kanaltürk, Şener said he regretting having supported Demirören’s run for the presidency of the federation. “You can’t change Article 58 without asking [clubs]. Well you can, and you did. But you will have to live with the consequences. This current federation [administration] does not work. It needs to go.” He reiterated earlier remarks that Trabzon will appeal the amendment both with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and an international arbitration court.
He also responded to accusations from Fenerbahçe Deputy Chairman Nihat Özdemir that Trabzonspor had unjustly taken TL 6 million allocated for preparing its team for the Black Sea Games, an international sports event for nations bordering the Black Sea. He said all the money was used to build a new stadium, as Trabzonspor’s old stadium did not comply with UEFA norms.
As executives and employees of football clubs issue one statement after another, politicians also have been making comments on the scandal. On Thursday, Voice of the People Party (HAS Party) Secretary-General Kazım Arslan commented on Monday’s announcements from the TFF. “We don’t think that the resolutions announced by the TFF regarding match-fixing in Turkish football will find the slightest acceptance in the public.”
He said the change to Article 58 is tantamount to “massacring justice.” Arslan also said the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is a prime suspect regarding the allegations, recalling that after the scandal broke, the government sponsored a bill reducing sentences for match-fixing and related offenses.
Demirören testifies in trial
Meanwhile, TFF President Demirören, testified on Thursday as a witness in the trial regarding match-fixing allegations in Turkish football.
The İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court is hearing the trial. Thursday’s hearing was the 14th session in the trial. Demirören, the former chairman of the Beşiktaş Football Club, testified about transfers that took place in the main league last season. He said in his testimony as chairman of the club he had opposed the incoming transfer of footballer İbrahim Akın due to “his performance and lifestyle.”
The indictment accuses Beşiktaş officials of having proposed Akın, who was a player of the İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediye (İBB) Football Club at the time, be transferred to Beşiktaş in return for underperforming during İBB games with Beşiktaş and not scoring any goals. Akın himself is a suspect in the trial although he has been released from jail.
In response to a question on whether there could have been attempts to transfer Akın in spite of Demirören’s objections, “Even if the transfer committee promises a footballer, the ultimate decision is made by the executive board. I don’t remember when we talked about the İbrahim Akın issue. I couldn’t attend most meetings at the time due to my father’s health problems.”
Demirören left the courthouse after holding a private conversation with Mehmet Ekinci, the presiding judge, in the judge’s chambers.
Fenerbahçe executives Ünal Uzun, Nihat Özdağı, Murat Özaydınlı, Mithat Yenigün, Ali Koç and Nihat Özdemir were also at the courthouse at Çağlayan on Thursday. The executives did not make any statements to the press. There are 93 suspects in the case; ten -- including Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım – are under custody.