Fener’s ‘problem child’ Emre denies racially abusing Zokora

Fener’s ‘problem child’ Emre denies racially abusing Zokora

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fener’s ‘problem child’ Emre denies racially abusing Zokora

Emre Belözoğlu (R) and Didier Zokora (C) are involved in a heated exchange of words during a Super League game. Emre rejects Zokora’s claims of being racially abused and supported by Nigerian teammate Yobo.

Emre Belözoğlu denied accusations yesterday that he racially abused Trabzonspor’s Ivorian midfielder Didier Zokora in a heated exchange on April 15 in the latest controversy surrounding the Turkish international star. 

Racism is something deeply rooted in one’s character and I swear I don’t have it in me. At first, my religion would not let me be a racist person,” Fenerbahçe midfielder Emre said at a press conference yesterday. “If there is the slightest of racist feeling in me, let God take my heart out of my body.” 
But Zokora claimed he was racially abused by Emre during the two teams’ Spor Toto Super League championship playoff game on April 15. 

“If I did not hear it wrong, Emre called me ‘f..king ni..er’,” Zokora told Lig TV after the game. 
The broadcaster showed footage of the two players embroiled in a heated exchange of words, and the movements of Emre’s lips appeared to confirm Zokora’s claims. 

In a phone interview on the Lig TV’s post-game show, Maraton, Emre confirmed that he “may have said” such words in a response to Zokora’s swear words. 

However, in yesterday’s conference, Emre denied admitting having said those words. 

“I was in a car when Şansal Büyüka [the host of the Maraton show] called me and asked me if I have 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 racially abusing Zokora,” Emre said.

“He said I told him ‘f… negro,’ but I told him ‘f… prick,’” Emre said. 

That is not the first time Emre has become the central figure in a racial controversy, having previously been probed 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 England-based Sierra Leonean midfielder Al Bangura. 

Yobo, who confronted Emre five years ago as a rival in the case, is now a Fenerbahçe player and participated in the press conference yesterday to defend his teammate. 

“This situation is a little bit difficult for me. I have fallen between my friend Emre and Zokora, another friend. Racism is something you don’t want in football at all. In football there are lots of swear words, it’s a competitive sport and you use compact words on the pitch,” Yobo said yesterday. “I had issues with Emre before but the issue that happened between me and Emre was that he was fighting for his team, [and I was] fighting for the team.”

Ultimately, Yobo said the issue between himself and Emre had been resolved.

“If I have thought Emre was a racist person, I don’t think I would have come to Fenerbahçe,” Yobo said in his teammate’s defense. 

“I know I have made mistakes, I’ve done things I regret,” Emre said. “I fight to win and as much I am trying to avoid it, any path going to victory is legitimate. I know swear words are not right as well but sometimes you use them. But I did not racially abuse Zokora.” 

Fenerbahçe won the game 2-0 with goals from Cristian Baroni and Moussa Sow.