Aziz Yıldırım re-elected to chair Fenerbahçe for record 11th term with landslide vote
Next February, Aziz Yıldırım's time in charge will officially surpass that of Şükrü Saraçoğlu, a former politician and prime minister who chaired the club 16 years between 1934 and 1950.Aziz Yıldırım has been re-elected as Fenerbahçe chairman for a record 11th term, which ensures that he will become the longest-serving figure heading one of Turkey's biggest and most popular clubs.
Despite being marred with controversy due to match-fixing scandals, Yıldırım easily beat his rival, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, by receiving 6821 of the 9380 votes cast during the club's general congress on Nov. 3.
The congress, which grabbed huge national media attention, had more implications than a simple election, as Aydınlar had presented himself as a staunch critic of Yıldırım over the match-fixing scandal that cost the club a three-year ban from all European competitions.
Aydınlar, who was the freshly-elected Turkish Football Federation (TFF) head when the saga erupted, held Yıldırım responsible for not cooperating with UEFA during the public investigation on the case, arguing that it was he who "saved" the Istanbul club from an even heavier punishment.
Known for his uncompromising ways, Yıldırım fired back, accusing Aydınlar of cooperating with Lutfi Arıboğan and Ebru Köksal, two then-TFF executive members who later took on duties on the Galatasaray board. That accusation amounted to a charge of grand treason for Fenerbahçe fans.
Sentenced to six years in prison, Yıldırım spent just over a year in jail before being was released from custody based on time already served after launching an appeal.
"Today it was the payoff for what was endured on July 3," he said in his first remarks after the election, in a clear reference to the match-fixing investigation that started on July 3, 2011.
"It was a race between the real Fenerbahçe supporters and those who live day-by-day. It was an election between those who betrayed Fenerbahçe and those who struggled for it. It was a struggle for those who have served time for saying that their last word was Fenerbahçe," the re-elected chairman added.
Aydınlar and Yıldırım were close friends before the match-fixing saga converted them into arch-enemies. The former was the head of the volleyball branch that led Fenerbahçe Acıbadem to success both in the men's and women's categories.
Yıldırım also vowed that Fenerbahçe's football branch would earn the title this year.
"We are Fenerbahçe's soldiers. We will hand Fenerbahçe to our children in line with the Republic's principles. We will become champions in every branch. And they will not say that we will fix matches again tomorrow. We will write history this season," Aydınlar had said.
Next February, Yıldırım's time in charge will officially surpass that of Şükrü Saraçoğlu, a former politician and prime minister who chaired the club 16 years between 1934 and 1950. Yıldırım had himself paid tribute to Saraçoğlu during his first run as the head of the club when giving his name to the club's stadium in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul.
Fenerbahçe's football branch has won five national league titles under Yıldırım. The club's other branches have witnessed huge leaps, especially in the basketball, volleyball, athletics and women's categories.