Soccer game falls victim to violence in Diyarbakır

The Diyarbakır-Bursaspor game on Saturday was cancelled during the 17th minute when »»
The Diyarbakır-Bursaspor game on Saturday was cancelled during the 17th minute when Diyarbakırspor fans started throwing items onto the field.

A journalist covering the match was seriously injured and taken to the hospital. Even one referee was hit by a stone, which caused him to fall to the ground.

In an earlier match held in November in Bursa, the events during the game between the Bursaspor and Diyarbakırspor teams turned tense as a result of protests and slogans chanted by the Bursaspor fans. It brought the Diyarbakırspor club to the point of considering withdrawing from the Super League. At all Diyarbakırspor matches, the slogan most frequently shouted by supporters of the rival team is “PKK out,” linking Diyarbakırspor with the outlawed PKK.

Since the promotion of Diyarbakırspor to the first division this year, the slogan has been heard more frequently than ever before. In the Bursaspor-Diyarbakır game in November when several Diyarbakırspor fans were injured, Diyarbakırspor stated that Bursaspor was not adequately punished and did not offer a sufficient apology.

The fear surrounding Saturday’s match was that Diyarbakırspor fans would reciprocate with the same protests and even resort to violence. Unfortunately this fear became a reality after fans started throwing stones on the field and shouting slurs. The referees abandoned the game during the 17th minute, and the Bursaspor team left the field as well.

Police used teargas to disperse Diyarbakırspor fans engaged in disruptive behavior after the suspension of a Diyarbakırspor-Bursaspor match on Saturday.

Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the former chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and a soccer fan who has been to the stadium, told Today’s Zaman that the reaction of the Diyarbakırspor fans was not a politically organized reaction. “It was the anger of fans who sought revenge after what happened in Bursa,” he said. The reaction mostly came from less-educated fans, Tanrıkulu stressed. Tanrıkulu further argued that the game held between Fenerbahçe-Diyarbakırspor saw much worse conditions, yet the game continued to be played. “But that game was not canceled. Neither the referees nor the soccer players are willingly to come to Diyarbakır,” he said.

Bursaspor coach Ertuğrul Sağlam said they were offended. “I don’t know what the decision of the Turkish Soccer Federation [TFF] will be, but we want to forget this game,” he said, adding that actually Diyarbakırspor suffered the most damage. “Maybe their pitch will be closed, maybe they will play a couple of games without their fans. This is a pity for them. The players and the technical team of Diyarbakırspor are working very hard to be successful, but these kinds of incidents are harming their efforts.”

The TFF will make a decision about the game. It might decide to repeat the game, or it might declare Bursaspor the winner 3-0. The punishment for Diyarbakırspor will soon be decided as well.

The team leader of Bursaspor, Ömer Erdoğan, on the plane on the way back to Bursa, answered journalists’ questions and said when they were leaving the stadium they were attacked: “If you were able to see what happened, you would think that we were in Turkey. I am sure that if our fans were in the stadium, the problems would have been bigger. Thank God we are returning home in one piece,” he said.

He added that he had played in Diyarbakır before but the atmosphere was not like that.

“I am sure most of those people who did this are not from Diyarbakır, but those who want to provoke Diyarbakır,” captain Erdoğan said. Aziz İstegün from the Zaman daily, who was at the controversial game, said Diyarbakırspor administrators and officials before the game frequently urged the fans to show hospitality but that onlookers did not listen to them.

But İstegün added that the referees took the easy way out and cancelled the game, although they could have made announcements to try to maintain order. Diyarbakırspor Club President Sümer Çetin stated that Bursaspor was very reluctant about the game and that they were just looking for an opportunity to leave the pitch.

He claimed that Bursaspor did not offer a sincere apology for the events in November and that this attitude resulted in Diyarbakırspor fans being tense. “We tried to shield the pitch against things that were thrown onto it. But the Bursaspor soccer players continued to provoke our supporters,” Çetin claimed.

Meanwhile, journalist Mehmet Kayahan, who was injured during the game, has been transferred to İstanbul. It is reported that the nerves in one of his eyes has been severely damaged.