Confusing messages from the stands

Confusing messages from the stands

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Confusing messages from the stands

A banner at the Türk Telekom Arena reads ‘You, great Prophet! All the worlds were created for Your sake. Those films and cartoons will not be left unpunished.’ AA photo

Albert Camus once said, “Everything I know about morality ... I owe it to football.” The great French writer would know a lot about Turkey’s chaotic situation as well if he were to see what’s going on in Turkish stadiums.

Galatasaray fans joined their fellow Muslims in slamming an anti-Islam movie and anti-Islam cartoons with a banner during their league game, while several banners from Fenerbahçe fans illustrated a variety of political and social stances.

During Galatasaray’s home game against Akhisar on Sept. 22, a gigantic banner was unfurled, reading: “You, great Prophet! All the worlds were created for Your sake. Those films and cartoons will not be left unpunished.” The banner was understandably a reaction to the movie “Innocence of Muslims” and the cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Unfurling a banner at a football stadium is, of course, a more peaceful way of making criticism than staging some of the violent protests that have been rocking Middle Eastern countries. However, the threatening tone of the last part of the banner is still way too dangerous for a country whose inflammable tendencies are well-documented. And actually, what Umut Öfkeli, a leading member of ultrAslan, the club’s leading supporter group which has the ultimate power to hang up the banners, wrote on his personal Twitter page made things even sourer.

“The banner in no way insulted any other religion or belief,” he wrote. “We now met the Jews within us.”

Two days later, the Fenerbahçe-Trabzonspor game gave further chances to think about politics on the terraces.

Army reference

One fan wore a T-shirt bearing the message, “We are proud of Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers,” which was more significant in the wake of the controversial court decision in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup-plot case.

A court sentenced three retired generals to aggravated life imprisonment in the case on Sept. 21, before the sentences were reduced to 20 years.

That was no coincidence given Fenerbahçe fans have begun chanting pro-nationalist and anti-government slogans more often after the match-fixing case. Many fans have championed the idea that the case, which led to the sentencing of Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and fellow officials to prison for attempting to manipulate games, was designed to take over the club administration. Yıldırım made several remarks about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, during his defenses at the court and Fenerbahçe fans were more open: The slogan “[Fethullah Gülen] Community cannot cope with us” was a fixture at street marches.

However, another reaction that rocked the social media after the Fenerbahçe-Trabzonspor game was ugly to say the least. Two women wearing black bags on their heads displayed two packets of biscuits called “Negro” in a clear reference to the racist word that former Fenerbahçe player Emre Belözoğlu allegedly uttered at Trabzonspor’s Ivorian midfielder Didier Zokora in a heated game last season.
The game was played in front of women and children only because men were barred for crowd trouble during Fenerbahçe’s last home game last season. However, the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) presumption that women would behave better than men was destroyed with the ugly gesture. It’s unnecessary to say that two fans’ ugly behavior cannot be extrapolated to a whole fan group, but it goes to show how the naughtiness of a football rivalry can bring out the worst in people.

The famous social distribution of roles between the Istanbul’s big three was that Galatasaray’s fan base was “aristocratic,” Fenerbahçe’s was “bourgeois” and that Beşiktaş was “the team of the people.”

That presumption is so dated now that the three clubs have fans from every city and every social group. Just a look at the terraces would be enough to confuse one even more.