Dozens of leading Turkish football officials, including the chairman of 2011 league champion Fenerbahçe, faced judges on Tuesday at the start of a match-fixing trial, which is hoped to be the final chapter of a scandal that has plunged the country’s multi-billion-dollar Spor Toto Super League into chaos.
Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım, the most high-profile of the 93 officials and players charged in the case, waved to Fenerbahçe fans as he entered the courthouse at Silivri, 70 kilometers west of İstanbul.
Outside the court, 2,000 fans chanted slogans in support of their club’s chairman. A tent was set up to serve them tea, coffee and soup. “We are right, we will win,” they chanted. “Our love is not just for Feb. 14, it will last forever,” read a Fenerbahçe banner, alluding to Valentine’s Day. Fans from Sivasspor and Orduspor were also among the crowd.
The chairman of Fenerbahçe, a club whose most famous fan is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, gave an indignant response when a judge asked him whether he had any previous convictions. “No criminal record until coming here,” said Yıldırım, wearing a blue suit and a tie in Fenerbahçe’s blue-and-yellow. He leafed through documents and talked with his lawyers in the front row of the defendants’ section.
On Thursday, Yıldırım told reporters that he was detained on charges of fraud, not match fixing, and suggested that Super League rivals Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Beşiktaş were involved in match fixing in order to prevent Fenerbahçe from winning the league title.
Yıldırım also said that last season’s Trabzonspor-Galatasaray and Trabzonspor-Beşiktaş games should be investigated, suggesting that the three teams were involved in rigging those games to keep Fenerbahçe from winning the championship.