Turkish oil wrestling title changes hands after controversial VAR decisions

Turkish oil wrestling title changes hands after controversial VAR decisions


Orhan Okulu, celebrates after winning the 657th annual Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival final against Şaban Yılmaz, on the ground right, in Edirne, northwestern Turkey, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Orhan won the final. Wrestlers take part in this "sudden death"-style traditional competition wearing only a pair of leather trousers and a good slick of olive oil. AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Turkey’s longest-running traditional sports event, the Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling competition, has a new grand champion as the event was marred by video assistant referee decisions.

Repeating his success in 2015, Orhan Okulu won the grand title of “Başpehlivan” (Chief Wrestler) after beating Şaban Yılmaz, the grand champion of 2005 in the final match that took 45 minutes.

“My goal now is to win this golden belt three times in a row,” said Okulu, who is from the southern province of Antalya, after his triumph in the final.

The event, which was organized for the 657th time in the northwestern province of Edirne, is recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO and is believed to be one of the oldest sports competitions in the world.

Wrestlers compete under different categories, including “Başpehlivan,” in the three-day event.

Last year’s grand champion, İsmail Balaban, was eliminated by Ali Gürbüz in a quarterfinal match on July 15 as one of the biggest surprises of the tournament this year.

Gürbüz was able to qualify thanks to a highly-controversial VAR decision on the third round when he beat Recep Kara, another favorite of this year’s Kırkpınar.

Turkish Wrestling Federation President Musa Aydın suspended Kırkpınar’s referee committee following the controversy.

“A delegation of referees will inspect the decisions. If they think that Kara should have been declared the winner of the match, then we will fine the referees. However, we will not repeat the match,” Aydın said, confirming Okulu’s final victory.

Kara, on the other hand, announced that he would not be participating in Kırkpınar wrestling any more, claiming that he was unfairly eliminated.