Turkey, Russia national teams meet in more just than a friendly
AA photoBoth the timing and the venue of the Turkey-Russia friendly on Aug. 31, in the resort province of Antalya, attach great meaning to the friendly match - making it more than just preparation for their respective FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group campaigns.
The game comes weeks after Ankara and Moscow mended ties following the November 2015 crisis that erupted after Turkey downed a Russian jet for violating its airspace on the Syrian border. The crisis was brought to an end following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s June letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and a bilateral meeting in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9.
The two countries are now seeking ways for joint action against ISIL in Syria, building a joint mechanism.
It is also, meanwhile, notable that Antalya is hosting the match. One of the leading tourism spots in Turkey, Antalya is among the areas worst hit by the Ankara-Moscow crisis, as it is had been the top destination for Russian tourists visiting Turkey until the Kremlin banned tour operators from doing business with Turkey.
While more than 1.7 million tourists visited Antalya last July, this figure declined to around 857,000 in the same month of this year, with a decline of more than 98 percent in the number of Russian tourists visiting the resort.
While more than 573,000 Russian tourists visited Antalya in July 2015, this figured had plunged to just 10,090 in July 2016.
Following the rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow, Russian tourists are returning to Turkey. The first charter flights with Russian tourists will fly to Turkey on Sept. 4-5, Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, told the TASS news agency on Aug. 29.
Earlier reports had suggested there were efforts to host Putin at the friendly game.
“Such information appeared on social media. There is no such plan yet, but it would be great. Such a visit would contribute to the further normalization of our relations,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Aug. 24.
While it is unlikely that Putin will be in attendance, some 2,000 Russian fans are expected to attend the game, a spokesman for the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has said.
“The stadium has a capacity of around 32,000 and we think the match will see around 27,000-28,000 spectators,” TASS quoted the spokesman as saying.
He also said a local foundation promoting the development of bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey would be distributing some tickets free of charge and some at a special low price of three euros.
Meanwhile, one day after the match journalists from Russia and Turkey will meet in Antalya at a business forum.
The Turkish national team squad gathered on Aug. 28 at an Antalya hotel. Turkey coach Fatih Terim has drawn criticism for not including Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan in the squad, despite his impressive start to the season in Spain’s La Liga.
After taking on Russia, Turkey will fly to Zagreb from Antalya Airport on Sept. 2 for a game with Croatia on Sept. 4.
That game will be played behind closed doors, as FIFA has ordered Croatia to play two World Cup qualifying matches in empty stadiums for repeated chanting of fascist slogans by fans.