Galatasaray set for tense game in Belgrade
DHA PhotoGalatasaray Liv Hospital will take on Red Star Belgrade in a Turkish Airlines Euroleague Last 16 game tonight, amid security concerns following the murder of a Serbian fan in Istanbul in the last meeting between the two sides.
A 25-year-old Red Star fan, Marko Ivkovic, was stabbed to death in clashes with Galatasaray supporters before a Euroleague group stage match on Nov. 21, 2014. The incident caused an uproar in Serbia and precipitated calls for revenge from some fan groups, while also creating concerns about future matches between Turkish and Serbian teams.
An Istanbul prosecutor last week demanded an 18-year jail term for Kadri Aktaş, who is accused of killing Ivkovic, along with six others allegedly involved in the murder.
Galatasaray will fly to Belgrade with a private plane at noon today and leave right after the game. Galatasaray chairman Duygun Yarsuvat is set to travel with the team, along with seven police officers for security.
Murat Özyer, Galatasaray’s basketball coordinator, said all eyes will be on the game, which will start at 10 p.m. Turkish time at the sold-out Kombank Arena.
“Everybody will do their best to have a game that will be remembered only for basketball,” he said. “It will be an important game for our fight to advance from the group. If we play a smart and controlled game, we might get a key away victory.”
Red Star sits at the bottom of the Last 16 group with no wins, while Galatasaray, which has one victory, is in seventh spot.
The teams played two games in the group stage this season, respectively taking their home games, with Red Star winning 76-68 in Belgrade and Galatasaray triumphing 110-103 in double overtime in Istanbul on the night Ivkovic was killed.
Red Star chairman Nebojsa Covic called on his fans to be calm at the game.
“We are very well organized, and I hope that everything will go in sporting terms, and there will be a satisfactory level of security,” Covic was quoted as saying on the club’s official website. “On this occasion, I urge fans to refrain and hope that everything will go according to fair play.”
The chairman said there may be some derogatory chanting at the arena.
“It is difficult to prevent,” he said. “But it is very important that no objects are thrown on the court. We have a good communication with our fans and a full understanding on their part. It is very important that this match goes smoothly, because it will all be carefully monitored by the Euroleague.”
Covic said Red Star needed a victory to keep its chances of advancing to the quarterfinals.
“We want our supporters to help the players in this task, and we know how to do it,” he added.
The game also coincides with the first hearing of the trial into Ivkovic’s alleged killers.
“I have to mention that the Turkish state has responded quite well after the murder and caught the suspect,” Covic said. “Actually, I do not know if I can call them suspects, because, according to what I read in the criminal complaint, it is evident who killed Mark and who helped him. We’ll see how the trial will go, but it is clear that the prosecutor very accurately described the event.”