ISTANBUL BLOG: Fenerbahce players walk out on Turkish football. The mafiosi are not about to join them

ISTANBUL BLOG: Fenerbahce players walk out on Turkish football. The mafiosi are not about to join them
Erdogan regularly hosts Ali Koc (left), head of Fenerbahce, and his father Rahmi Koc (second left) as well as other Koc family members at his palace. / Turkish presidency
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade April 8, 2024

The players of football club Fenerbahce (FENER) on April 8 walked off the pitch after just one minute of their Turkish Super Cup Final match against fellow “Istanbul Big Three” football team Galatasaray (GSRAY).

Their protest action (media reported the club had requested the game be postponed ahead of their Europa Conference League quarter-final game at Greece’s Olympiakos on April 11 but were turned down) forced the game to be abandoned and meant they conceded the trophy, Reuters reported.

Story photo: Erdogan regularly hosts Ali Koc (left), head of Fenerbahce, and his father Rahmi Koc (second left) as well as other Koc family members at his palace in Ankara.

All the photos shared by the Turkish presidency on the Kocs’ visits have an unfortunately low resolution.

In March, Turkey’s competition board provided an exemption to Ford Otosan (FROTO), a Koc Holding (KCHOL) unit, for a joint electric van project with Volkswagen.

Where football in Turkey is concerned, there is always too much noise. But it should not be forgotten that the big brothers of the game are sensitive to keeping business and the football in separate compartments.

Erdogan, in particular, is extremely sensitive about separating the media soap operas from the business. If you read the media extensively, you will become convinced that Erdogan has been fighting with the Istanbul-based “money” for decades.

For the match, arranged for Sanliurfa city on the border with Syria, Fenerbahce fielded its Under-19 team.

Originally, the Super Cup Final was scheduled to be played  in December in Saudi Arabia. However, it was postponed over what the clubs described as “some problems” in the event's organisation.

At the heart of those issues, according to media reports, was the wish of the two teams to wear t-shirts featuring the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during the warm-up ahead of the game.

Turkish media suggested that Saudi officials rejected the demand, though it was not clear why, and that the clubs subsequently declined to play the match.

The history of Saudi Arabia is the story of gaining independence from Turkish rule. An abiding allergy to the Turkish state may have played a role in the drama.

The long-winded Super Cup Final drama is not the only theatre that was recently staged by Turkish football.

In March, fans ran on to the field at the conclusion of a match and attacked celebrating Fenerbahce players, who had just defeated their team in Trabzon on the eastern Black Sea coast.

In December, the head of MKE Ankaragucu, a football club in Ankara, ran on to the pitch and punched a referee to the ground after the final whistle.

Since last year, another scandal has also featured on the country’s agenda thanks to the court process in relation to a fraudulent scheme said to have included ex-footballers, a coach, namely Fatih Terim, as well as a branch manager of Denizbank.

Despite millions of dollars worth of transfer expenditures financed via debt restructurings conducted by public banks as well as millions of dollars worth of stadium investments, Turkey’s football industry falls short of offering good football for stadium crowds and television audiences.

However, it certainly plays its role in regularly providing tasty scandals.

Since the spread of Turkish football from Istanbul and Izmir to the outlands during the 1970s in parallel with the expansion of television sets, there has not been a single period in which fair “sporting” play was centre-stage.

As well as the politicians, mafiosi have always been involved with the game, which not only represents one of the leading tools for herding the crowds, but also provides a perfect “washing machine” for money laundering activities and earning a social status.

Although it did not catch as much attention as the Super Cup drama, Eyupspor, one of the smaller clubs in Istanbul, on April 8 was promoted to Turkey’s top league while police chief-turned-minister-turned-convicted-gang-leader Mehmet Agar watched the game from the first row of the VIP seats.

Tweets  The Turks have an idiom: "The rich man’s wealth tires the poor man’s jaw." Agar’s crimes have tired the jaws of a few generations across decades.