After "fake passport" crisis Fenerbahçe Ülker player Sato returns to Istanbul
AA photoFenerbahçe Ülker’s Central African guard Romain Sato returned to Istanbul on Oct. 19 after spending the night at the Ljubljana Airport Police Station for holding an allegedly fake passport.
Fenerbahçe has announced that Sato has been “freed” after attending a hearing in Slovenia on Oct. 19. It added that the team decided to send Sato, “who spent the night sleepless,” back to Istanbul, despite initial reports suggesting that the player could be deported to the Central African Republic.
Sato was with the team on Oct. 18 when the Turkish club arrived in Slovenia to face Union Olimpija for a Turkish Airlines Euroleague match.
However, the player was later taken into custody, with the Slovenia-based Kosarka quoting a police statement that they had “arrested a foreign national who did not have the relevant documents.”
“On Oct. 18, at around 14:30, border control officers at Pucnik Airport found that the 31-year-old man, a citizen of the Central African Republic, had arrived with a false passport,” the police statement said.
“Police officers have detained the man and today the case will be referred to the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Kranj.”
Fenerbahçe immediately responded to the news, dismissing the decision as a “scandal.”
“As a player holding a passport with a Schengen visa and who has made entries to many European countries and the United States, Sato has been subjected to actions irrelevant to laws and diplomacy,” Fenerbahçe said on its website. “[Slovenian] authorities forced a situation where our player was kept under arrest overnight. But let’s not forget, this unlawful action is not about clubs, it is an international scandal.”
Turkish NTV Spor’s İsmail Şenol reported that Sato holds the same passport he did last year when he was playing for Greece’s Panathinaikos and that the basketball player had not experienced similar problems in other countries.
Union Olimpija made a statement distancing itself from the case, saying that it “regrets the situation around the Fenerbahçe Ülker player Romain Sato.”
“The situation has nothing to do with sports or our basketball club, but it is of a bureaucratic nature in which a club must not interfere and therefore not comment,” the statement said.
“We have been in contact with both Fenerbahçe Ülker Istanbul officials, as well as with the management of the Euroleague. Both managements fully understood that this case must be addressed from the authorities. We wish this situation, whatever it is, gets solved as soon as possible, and that player Romain Sato will play for Fenerbahce Ülker Istanbul in Stozice Arena.”
However, after a night in custody, Fener sent the player back to Istanbul.
“We want to reiterate that our fight against this unjust treatment towards our players and our team will continue on a legal basis,” the club said.