ISTANBUL - Reuters
Fenerbahçe clinched their 19th Turkish league, equalizing with arch-foes Galatasaray. AA Photo
Fenerbahçe’s lackluster 0-0 draw at home to Çaykur Rizespor on April 27 wasn’t a game for the ages, but for the 50,000 women and children that packed the club’s Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium, it was enough to provide memories for the ages, as the single point was enough to clinch the Yellow Canaries their 19th Turkish league title.
Clinching the league with three games to spare sent fans into wild euphoria in Istanbul and prompted players to dedicate the trophy to their chairman, Aziz Yıldırım, and those who endured tear gas in solidarity protests for the club.
“We have gone through a lot. I dedicate this championship trophy to all those who were choked in tear gas and faced accusations. This title is totally clean, just like the previous ones,” defender Bekir İrtegün told journalists after the match.
“This championship will make us forget all the difficulties we had since [the match-fixing allegations of 2011]. We dedicate the trophy to our president, Aziz Yıldırım, who went to jail and is set to go again for Fenerbahçe,” goalkeeper and captain Volkan Demirel said.
Yıldırım faces a probable return to prison after his appeal against a conviction for match-fixing was rejected by a top court this month.
“It's really a very special moment in my life. It's a great victory, not only for me but the whole club. We are experiencing truly special feelings after all the club went through," Fenerbahçe
forward Dirk Kuyt told reporters, also referring to the match-fixing case hanging over the club.
Thousands of fans took to the streets to celebrate, waving flags and singing songs while fireworks were seen exploding all over the Bosphorus strait.
Coach Ersun Yanal, in his first year in charge of Fenerbahçe, secured the title thanks to the outstanding performances of African strikers Emmanuel Emenike, Moussa Sow and Pierre Webo.
"I am very proud of the team and thank everyone, especially our chairman. We showed once again that Fenerbahce is pure and strong," Yanal told reporters.
Despite winning the league, Fenerbahçe
is banned from European competition next year; in its place, the second-place finisher – currently Galatasaray
– will enter the group stage of the UEFA
In the end, the draw against the Black Sea
side was entirely unnecessary, as Beşiktaş’s simultaneous 3-0 capitulation away to Sivasspor confirmed Fener as champions regardless of the result of the Canaries’ fixture.
The game against Rizespor was played in a stadium packed with women and children under the age of 12 due to adult males being banned following crowd trouble in previous weeks.