Turkish footballer faces two-year prison for alleged insult to Zokora

Turkish footballer faces two-year prison for alleged insult to Zokora

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish footballer faces two-year prison for alleged insult to Zokora

Former Fenerbahçe ace Emre Belözoğlu (R) admits he swore at Trabzonspor midfielder Didier Zokora, but denied making any racist statements.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Emre Belözoğlu faces a prison sentence of up to two years for allegedly racially insulting Didier Zokora during a Turkish league game in April.

The official complaint filed by Zokora’s club, Trabzonspor, was initially rejected by the Kadıköy Prosecutors Office earlier this year but, after an appeal, an Istanbul court decided that the case should be opened against Emre for “alleged discrimination.”

The allegations first came in the wake of the Spor Toto Super League match between Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor, when midfielder Zokora told reporters that he was racially abused by Emre.

The Turkish midfielder, however, denied the claims of racism, adding that even though he “said swear words to Zokora,” he did not make racist statements.

“He said I called him ‘f… negro,’ but I called him a ‘f… prick,’” Emre said at a press conference held after the controversy broke.

The Turkish Football Federation held an investigation and found Emre guilty of insulting Zokora, hitting the Turkish international player with a two-match ban but clearing him of racism charges.

In the indictment written by the prosecutors, it was alleged that “even though an expert’s report said that the words ‘f… n...’ were heard, in the video evidence, Zokora’s elbows were in the way of Emre’s mouth and the word was not clearly seen.”

Emre vehemently rejected Zokora’s claims. “Racism is something deeply rooted in one’s character and I swear I don’t have it in me. First of all, my religion would not let me be a racist person.”

Emre, who was transferred to Atletico Madrid from Fenerbahçe later in the year, had similar problems when he was in England as well.

He had been investigated in two separate cases of racial abuse before being cleared. Both cases occurred in 2007, when he was playing for Newcastle United. The first one involved a trio of Everton players, Tim Howard, Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo, while the second centered on England-based Sierra Leonean midfielder Al Bangura.