Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has phoned the chairmen and coaches of Turkish league championship winner Fenerbahçe and second-placed Trabzonspor to congratulate them on their success.
The Black Sea side entered last week with the same points as Fenerbahçe, but the İstanbul team was in pole position by virtue of its head-to-head record.
Erdoğan, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he had phoned Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and coach Aykut Kocaman to congratulate them on winning the championship title. He also said he had called Trabzonspor Chairman Sadri Şener and coach Şenol Güneş, telling them that the Black Sea team deserved praise for pursuing the league title until the very last game of the 34-week marathon.
Erdoğan, himself an ardent Fenerbahçe fan, also responded to speculation that Trabzonspor's loss of the championship could negatively affect his Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) standing in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Angry Trabzon fans gathered at one of the city's busiest streets after Fenerbahçe's win and chanted slogans against Fenerbahçe, Prime Minister Erdoğan, his AK Party and Sports Minister Faruk Özak.
Erdoğan said it would be “wrong” to turn the result of a sports race into a political campaign. “The importance that I attach to Trabzon and sports is evident,” he told reporters, noting that the government has channeled almost TL 650 million in investments to improve the sports infrastructure in Trabzon.
Erdoğan also criticized a recent decision by Turkey's football authorities to slap Bursaspor with a heavy penalty due to fan violence ahead of the team's Super League game with Beşiktaş earlier this month.
The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) imposed harsh penalties on Bursaspor over violence ahead of a Beşiktaş game, declaring Bursaspor a 3-0 loser by default and ordering the club to play five games behind closed doors. The Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK) also ordered the team to play one more match behind closed doors, meaning it will play six games without spectators.
“I do not think the penalties imposed on Bursaspor are fair because Bursa is a revered team in our country. It will represent our country in international tournaments,” he said.