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TURKISH FOOTBALL FOCUS > Controversy prevails early in new Super League campaign

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

The new season in the Spor Toto Super League comes with a high dose of controversy, quickly changing the air after the Olympic Games. From a lengthy ban of Galatasaray’s ‘enfant terrible’ Engin Baytar to a controversial goal scored by Fenerbahçe players who ignore a basic fair play gesture, the game is on with a bang

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Spor Toto Super League newcomer Elazığspor failed to hold on to its lead in its game against Fenerbahçe in İzmir. Fenerbahçe’s equalizer sparked controversy as the players refused to engage in fair play. AA photo

Spor Toto Super League newcomer Elazığspor failed to hold on to its lead in its game against Fenerbahçe in İzmir. Fenerbahçe’s equalizer sparked controversy as the players refused to engage in fair play. AA photo

Çetin Cem Yılmaz Çetin Cem Yılmaz cetincem.yilmaz@hdn.com.tr

Rapidly gone are the days when Turkey’s sports scene was dominated by the thrilling and sportsmanlike world of the Olympics. For a brief two weeks, Turkey learned to see that the glass was half-full, not only in the form of boasting about the medals, but also with high jumper Burcu Ayhan’s progression to the final or with runner Merve Aydın, who refused to give up and limped to the end of her 800m heat despite being injured.

Now with the start of the Spor Toto Super League, we are back to reality. Nothing counts but win here. A good performance that failed to translate into three points will provide no consolation. Seeing the positives, as in a simple fair-play gesture, or enjoying the aesthetics of a beautiful goal or classy dribbling or quality passing, is futile. Winning ugly does not mean anything here. Winning itself is considered beautiful enough.

Just a week of the new football campaign was needed to show that controversy will prevail again.
Galatasaray winger Engin Baytar’s attack on referee Cüneyt Çakır in the Turkish Super Cup game on Aug. 12 raised the curtain. Baytar was hit with an 11-match ban 48 hours before the start of the Super League. It was not the first offense of Baytar, whose fights with teammates and rebellion against former coach Şenol Güneş were well-documented, so his ban was not a surprise – reminding people of his English counterpart, Joey Barton. The QPR midfielder was banned for 12 games for his clash with Manchester City forward Sergio Agüero on the final day of the 2011-12 English Premier League season. Baytar’s ban is not too over-the-top, but fans, who say similar offenses were not hit with similar bans, have a point. If the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) is going to continue its zero-tolerance policy in not only attacks on referees, but also on rival players, as well as divers, cheats and committers of brutal fouls, it will have the humble backing of this journalist.

Unwritten rule dismissed

The second hot point of the week came in Fenerbahçe’s Elazığspor game. Dirk Kuyt equalized for the Istanbul team after his mates continued to play even though an Elazığspor player was lying on the turf after being hit by the ball; the goal nakedly broke arguably the most famous unwritten fair-play rule in the game. One cannot be punished for not sending the ball out to stop play since there is no rule on it, but it should be admitted that the play looked ugly. Most football fans, besides Fener supporters, voiced disdain over the decision, but let’s be honest, it was not out of a fondness for fair play. It was because it was not their team that committed it. Had their team scored a goal by ignoring a chance to engage in fair play, they would jump to the defense with excuses that those gestures presented the risk of giving opponents a chance to waste time by faking injuries.

Empathy is not a common quality on the Turkish football scene. A Galatasaray fan that can admit that Engin Baytar deserved his ban or a Fenerbahçe supporter saying that it was an unpleasant way to score a goal: That’s what we are lacking in the game.

August/23/2012

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