Fans march from stadiums to streets

Fans march from stadiums to streets

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fans march from stadiums to streets

Trabzonspor supporters filled the streets of the Black Sea province of Trabzon in one of their rallies on Jan 1. AA photo

With street protests and heavy statements, Turkish football supporter groups have been more active outside stadiums than during games, raising the question as to whether football fans are getting political after all.

This political activity was first seen in several protests from Fenerbahçe fans, which were angered and felt victimized following the arrests of four officials as part of the match-fixing case. Similar to protest scenes after journalists’ arrests or in workers’ rallies, but this time the protest was in support of the jailed chairman Aziz Yıldırım.

It took another stride when Trabzonspor fans staged simultaneous rallies calling for the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) to strip Fenerbahçe’s Spor Toto Super League title and award it back to their team. The rallies started with the simple motivations of football fans, but had all indications of political activity.

Sports writer Ali Ece said politics have always been a part of sport, only interrupted by the junta administration after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup.

“Politics have been in football, since the day it was born,” Ece said. “But it was interrupted after the fascist coup in 1980 and we have seen harsh interventions against fans in the stadiums. In the last 20 years, the nation turned apolitical and it could be seen in the game, as well.”

As for the reactions following the match-fixing case, it was again pressure in the stadiums which played a part in street protests, Radikal columnist Kenan Başaran explains.

“After the law on violence in sports was passed [in early 2011], fans start to feel more pressure in the stadiums,” Başaran explained. “Since they were not allowed to protest in the stadiums, they were forced to do it outside.”

The law on violence in sports brought stricter rules to causing crowd troubles, as well as regulating heavy bans on match-fixing.

“I think protests will continue with the start of the hearings [on Feb. 14],” Başaran said. “There may be rallies outside the courthouse and eventually, Fenerbahçe fans will take it to the streets if the team is cleared of charges. If it ends otherwise, that’s what Trabzonspor fans will do.”

But while Fenerbahçe fans take the anti-government role with claims they are victimized by a plot that will topple Yıldırım as chairman and someone closer with the government will take the hot seat, one doubts if reactions were well-rooted.

“I wish those actions started based on the search for justice, but unfortunately it was solely based on the title, the trophy,” Başaran said. “We can’t talk about a political stance here.”

Fans may be on the streets, but they will not be the winners of this game, Ece said.

“Actually if they don’t look colorblind, the common points of all football fans are a lot bigger than they have with those who give historic damage to the clubs as board members,” Ece said. “Fans are provoked against each other and that only works in the top dog’s benefit. It is the game and the fans who lose at the end.”

It can also be ended in a violent way with police intervening as well.

“Those protests can only go as long as the power lets them,” Başaran said. “They are not seen as activists now, but police will not let them go on after some point. Once teargas is involved, we will see if those rallies will be long-lived or not.”

Whether the rallies continue in the second part of the Super League, or not, it is obvious that it will be a tense football season in Turkey.