Emre pleads innocent as pressure mounts

Emre pleads innocent as pressure mounts

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Emre pleads innocent as pressure mounts

Hürriyet photo

Emre Belözoğlu has tried to defend himself from allegations of racism, saying he never made it an issue when he has been subjected to racism, as the pressure on the Fenerbahçe midfielder grows.

The Turkish national football team player has come under severe criticism and is facing a ban after Trabzonspor’s Ivoirien midfielder Didier Zokora accused Fenerbahçe’s Belözoğlu of racially abusing him during the two teams’ Spor Toto Super League game on April 15.

Trabzonspor filed a complaint of racism with the Kadıköy Prosecutor’s Office yesterday under article 6222 of the Penal Code, which is also known as the Law on Violence and Disorder in Sports. Belözoğlu may face three months to one year of jail time if the prosecutor accepts opening a probe.

Trabzonspor’s complaint comes two days after the Professional Football Disciplinary Committee (PFDK) opened a probe into Zokora’s allegations.

Potential ban

If found guilty, he will be hit with a four- to eight-match ban, according to the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) disciplinary ruling. The probe was opened provisionally, meaning that the midfielder will miss the weekend’s playoff game against Galatasaray even if the PFDK delays its decision to next week.

Former Inter Milan and Newcastle midfielder Belözoğlu continues to defend himself, rejecting the racism charges. “Myself, I have been subjected to racist slurs, like ‘the dirty Turk’ or words aimed at my Muslim beliefs, but I did not make them an issue, because they stayed on the pitch,” Belözoğlu said in yesterday’s edition of Turkish daily Hürriyet. Belözoğlu insisted he never said racist words to Zokora, adding that “he could take any ban on the chin, but not for things he did not commit.”

On April 15, the broadcaster showed footage of the two players embroiled in a heated exchange of words, and the movements of Belözoğlu’s lips appeared to confirm Zokora’s claims. In a phone interview on LigTV’s post-game show, Maraton, Belözoğlu confirmed that he “may have said” such words in a response to Zokora’s swear words.

Not the first time

However, Belözoğlu called a press conference the following day and denied admitting having said those words. “I was in a car when Şansal Büyüka [the host of the TV show “Maraton” TV] called me and asked if I had said those words, I did not fully understand what he said. I thought he was asking me whether I said swear words to Zokora and said, ‘yes.’ But I did not mean to confirm that I had racially abused Zokora,” Belözoğlu said.

That is not the first time Belözoğlu has been the central figure in a racial controversy, having previously 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 Sierra
Leonean midfielder Al Bangura. k HDN