The Fenerbahçe sports club is uncomfortable with a controversy surrounding its star footballer, Emre Belözoğlu, who allegedly directed a racial slur at Trabzonspor’s Didier Zokora during Sunday’s game, the club said in a statement on Monday.
Fenerbahçe expressed its “extreme” discomfort after Emre’s statements to Zokora were brought to public attention, prompting a discussion over racism. The club did not comment on Emre’s claims of innocence and emphasized its fight against racism in sports.
“Our club pays careful attention to the fight against all kinds of discrimination, and it has a consistent and clean background in that regard,” the statement read.
Fenerbahçe’s win against the Black Sea’s Trabzonspor on Sunday was overshadowed when Zokora made a statement to Lig TV right after the game, stating that the 31-year-old player, popularly referred to simply as Emre, verbally abused him using a racial slur. Emre initially admitted making the racist comment but later denied it, saying he misunderstood the question about his statement during the telephone interview on Sunday night. The İstanbul club also said it does not approve of such a delicate issue being brought to public attention following the game, as the argument between the players had been resolved during the match.
“Nobody should doubt that Fenerbahçe will always take the necessary steps against racist and similar discourses,” the statement continued.
The decision of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) is awaited. According to the TFF’s disciplinary regulations, Emre faces suspension from four to eight games in the event that he is found guilty of using a racial slur. Trabzonspor has filed an official complaint with the TFF against Emre.
The Fenerbahçe player has faced allegations of racism twice in the past when he played for Premier League side Newcastle. He was accused of making racist remarks towards Everton’s Yobo, who is now his teammate and who made an appearance at today’s press conference, and Bolton’s El-Hadji Diouf. Since the referees did not hear Emre’s alleged comments, no penalties were imposed on the footballer.