Turkish Super League team Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal has quickly become a Twitter sensation after football fans flooded the social media website with messages attacking his remarks that 20 million Galatasaray fans voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the last elections.
“I am guessing that out of the 25 million Galatasaray fans, 20 million voted for the AK Party,” Aysal said on a television program that aired on Thursday night. He was responding to a suggestion from the show's host, journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seemingly still upset with a tense ceremony marking the opening of Galatasaray's new stadium last year, where he was booed by a group of fans.
“The prime minister is not a person who would hold a grudge. He has more important things to be busy with,” Aysal said in response, noting that an estimated 20 million out of 25 million fans voted for the AK Party. “Therefore, I don't think the prime minister has a problem with us,” he said.
Aysal's remarks quickly became a “Turkey trend” on Twitter. “This is the ultimate indication of political interference in sports,” read one tweet. Many Galatasaray fans also posted messages denying they were AK Party supporters.
Aysal's remark came amid the chaos that has rocked Turkish football since a massive match-fixing probe got under way in July. Galatasaray rival Fenerbahçe's chairman, Aziz Yıldırım, is the highest-profile suspect in the probe and is in jail pending trial. Super League giants Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor are also implicated, while the indictment does not contain any accusation against Galatasaray.
Yıldırım says Fenerbahçe is “as clean as at least the other teams” and suggested in a message from prison on Thursday that the match-fixing probe has political goals, saying the investigation is “not about match-fixing.”