Fenerbahçe, AEL Limassol meet in quieter atmosphere

Fenerbahçe, AEL Limassol meet in quieter atmosphere

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fenerbahçe, AEL Limassol meet in quieter atmosphere

Fenerbahçe beat AEL Limassol thanks to a goal by Egemen Korkmaz during the two teams’ first meeting. The two teams meet again tonight in Istanbul. AFP photo

Fenerbahçe meets AEL Limassol tonight in a Europa League game whose build-up was quieter compared to their first meeting two weeks ago, when Fenerbahçe made a daunting trip to Greek Cyprus and won 1-0 thanks to a header by defender Egemen Korkmaz.

Fenerbahçe had a long road to Limassol due to diplomatic problems between the two countries. There are no direct flights from Turkey to Greek Cyprus and passage from the Turkish part of the island to the Greek part was also not allowed for the Turkish team.

Long road

Fenerbahçe first flew to Rhodes and stayed a few hours in the Greek island before taking a flight to Greek Cyprus. After landing in Larnaca Bay, the team was taken to Limassol by bus.

The previous Europa League game was declared a high-risk match and it was reported that fan groups were forcing spectators to avoid unveiling Turkish or Turkish Cyprus flags during the match.

“The game is listed in the high-risk category by the UEFA [European football’s governing body]. As a result, our club is responsible for having its supporters sign a statement that they would stand by UEFA codes for away [game] supporters,” the statement read. “Furthermore, our supporter groups in Cyprus took the initiative to add a few more articles to the statement.”

However, unlike the build-up, the game was played under an unusual air of peace, with Fenerbahçe fans unveiling a banner with the face of Lefter Küçükandonyadis on it. Küçükandonyadis, who passed away earlier this year, is arguably the greatest player to ever wear the Fenerbahçe shirt and was a Turkish player of Greek descent. “Football is peace and friendship,” the banner read.

The atmosphere was in deep contrast to previous sports meetings involving Turkish teams in Greek Cyprus.

Last year, the Galatasaray women’s volleyball team was subjected to debris thrown from the stands during a game with Apollon Limassol and there were similar attacks during a Pınar Karşıyaka men’s basketball game against APOEL.

The build-up to tonight’s game has been quieter than the previous meeting.

Fenerbahçe hopes to continue its spell atop the Europa League’s Group C.

The Yellow Canaries top the group with seven points from three matches, in front of French heavyweight Marseille and Borussia Mönchengladbach of Germany, who both have four points. AEL Limassol has just one point after three match days.

Following the AEL Limassol match, Fenerbahçe had a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Medical Park Antalyaspor in the Spor Toto Super League last week. The defeat brought Fenerbahçe’s 47-match winning streak in home matches to an end.

The Istanbul club managed to bounce back from the defeat with a hard-fought 2-1 win against struggling Super League side Akhisar over the weekend. Tonight’s game at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium begins at 8 p.m.