ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Players pose with a t-shirt bearing club’s recently freed chair’s words. AA Photo
Fenerbahçe sent out a message of solidarity when it opened the new football campaign yesterday, a day after its chairman and officials were convicted of match-fixing.
Fenerbahçe players started the season’s first training session wearing t-shirts with Chairman Aziz Yıldırım’s photograph and carrying a banner reading “Fenerbahçe forever.”
Yıldırım was sentenced to six years and three months in prison on match-fixing charges July 2, while fellow board members İlhan Ekşioğlu, Şekip Mosturoğlu, Tamer Yelkovan and Cemil Turan were also found guilty of manipulating several games from the 2010-2011 Turkish championship, when Fenerbahçe
won the title.
However, Yıldırım was released from jail based on time served, after being held under arrest in Istanbul’s Metris Prison for one year.
Last year, Fenerbahçe
lost the title to its archrival Galatasaray, but won the Ziraat Turkish Cup ending a 29-year drought.
“We had two finals last year, one we won, one we barely lost,” coach Aykut Kocaman said to his players. “If you think about it, this is something of an achievement. However, no matter the circumstances Fenerbahçe
could not win the title, and this is a failure for Fenerbahçe.”
Kocaman added that this time Fenerbahçe
should win the title. “We should win the title no matter what the circumstances are … We are Fenerbahçe,” he told his players.
Kocaman was echoing the thoughts of Yıldırım, who made his first media appearance with a brief interview with daily Hürriyet yesterday.
“Fenerbahçe will continue to grow,” Yıldırım said to Ercan Saatçi, a Hürriyet columnist who paid a visit to the Fenerbahçe
chairman on his return home. “I have many projects regarding Fenerbahçe. I will have a rest for one week, but will continue working all my life for Fenerbahçe,” Yıldırım said.
Fenerbahçe has improved its squad with some key signings, including Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool, midfielder Mehmet Topal from Valencia and left back Hasan Ali Kaldırım from Kayserispor.
“I believe Mehmet Topal will make a great contribution to the team with his international experience,” Kocaman said.
coach also asked his players to leave the match-fixing scandal behind them as they gear up for the new season. “What I am expecting from you is that you forget about everything and play for Fenerbahçe,” he said. “Support each other. We are Fenerbahçe. Never forget that.”