Mandela follows Atatürk onto federation’s ‘ban list’
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Each Fethiyespor player wore a t-shirt with one big letter during the pre-match line-up againt Fenerbahçe at the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in Istanbul on Dec 4.The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has begun displaying a dogged determination to keep “political messages” off the pitch in light of two recent investigations into players and clubs.
In the wake of a much-debated probe, which also drew criticism from Sports Minister Suat Kılıç, into Fethiyespor players who sported T-shirts saying “Yüce Atatürk” (Great Atatürk), two Ivorian players from Galatasaray are now facing possible punishments for wearing T-shirts to commemorate late anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
The players, legendary striker Didier Drogba and defender Emmanuel Eboue, were referred to the Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK) for wearing T-shirts commemorating Mandela during a league game on Dec. 6.
Drogba’s T-shirt read “Thank you, Madiba” while Eboue’s said “Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela,” in respect for the man who changed the course of world history by putting an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The TFF justified the decision by arguing that the players wore the T-shirts in the match against Elazığspor without receiving permission beforehand. Both players displayed the shirts after the conclusion of the game, which the Lions won 2-0.
But the move has raised questions about the TFF’s objectivity toward political gestures and messages. Fenerbahçe captain Emre Belözoğlu showed his support for ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi when he made the four-fingered “Rabia” salute after scoring against Torku Konyaspor on Aug. 17, but he did not receive any sanction. The gesture, which is called “Rabia” in reference to the protests in Rabaa al-Adawiyah Square and translates as “four” or “fourth,” has been used by Morsi supporters during the Cairo protests.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been a staunch critic of the military coup in Egypt, had made the gesture in a rally earlier that day.
Also on Aug. 17, Sercan Kaya of Çaykur Rizespor celebrated with a “Rabia” gesture after scoring the winner against Gençlerbirliği. Kaya also received no punishment for the act.
The TFF also recently referred Fethiyespor for disciplinary action after its players wore T-shirts reading “Great Atatürk” during the playing of the national anthem ahead of its Dec. 4 Turkish Cup game against Fenerbahçe. The TFF said the gesture had brought politics onto the field, but was criticized by Kılıç, who warned the federation against making “divisive decisions.”
“I can say clearly: Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founder of the Turkish Republic, a huge and common value for the Turkish society. His name cannot be described as a political message or something that can alienate people from each other,” Kılıç told reporters on Dec. 7 during an event in Yalova.
Earlier, Fethiyespor Chairman İsmail Öztürk expressed his dismay at the federation’s decision to initiate disciplinary procedures against his club. “Those people who mix politics into this affair, don’t they know that everyone living in this country is a [supporter] of Atatürk?” Öztürk told Hürriyet, adding that their sole intention was to celebrate a historic moment at Fenebrahçe’s Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium with a symbolic gesture.
“We wanted to commemorate Atatürk on this historic day. We categorically refuse that some may look for a political [message] in this,” Öztürk said.
Each Fethiyespor player wore a T-shirt with one large letter, arranging themselves to spell out “YÜCE ATATÜRK” (Great Atatürk) during the national anthem at Fenerbahçe’s stadium.
The TFF said it had referred the Mediterranean club to the disciplinary committee on the grounds that Atatürk had been used politically.
“Everywhere in the world, football fields are supposed to be places where only the game is played and watched. During their Turkish Cup match against Fenerbahçe, it was noted that Fethiyespor had appropriated for themselves values embraced by the nation for the purpose of sparking a debate,” a TFF statement issued on Dec. 6 said.
Kılıç urged the TFF to act with more sensitivity on the issue. “I think that more careful steps should be made about a statesman respected by all of society and a common value,” Kılıç said, noting that although the federation was an independent body, any decision could be interpreted as being connected to the political institutions. “Otherwise, the decision may result in a decision in society which could be interpreted as a decision or step made by those who are governing the country.”
For his part, Fethiyespor’s chairman thanked the public for its support on the issue, especially Fenerbahçe supporters who offered to gather money in the event the PTT 1. Lig club is fined – even after the Mediterranean club produced the shock of the cup round by beating the two-time defending champions 2-1 on their home pitch.
“We didn’t even think that we needed permission to use Atatürk’s name. Can Atatürk be a political item? He is someone above politics,” Öztürk said.