Got it, football is not only football - but it is also not violence

Got it, football is not only football - but it is also not violence

We are puffing each other up with the importance of our football industry and the brand value of our football league… 

Think of it like this: Our league that has the adjective “super” to go with it, and this year all of a sudden it had a “super final.” Since our league is “super” and a league that even Europe envies, and since its final will be super, then the last six weeks (one gone, five left) should pass in an atmosphere of festivity, right? 
Four teams at the nation’s football summit will provide a feast at the football festivity that will last for six weeks. But, somehow no; these days are not passing like that. 

This weekend, Trabzonspor and Beşiktaş will play each other, but because Trabzonspor has a penalty and must play behind closed doors, the match will be played in front of only women and children, without a penny of income for Trabzonspor. 

Beşiktaş, because its fans invaded the pitch in the match they played on Monday night against Galatasaray, will most probably have a match behind closed doors too, which means they will also have to play to women and children. 

Moreover, this is only the beginning. 

What has happened in this country? Has football stopped being football and a bit of weekend fun for the lower and middle-income groups, and turned into a war? 

I am lucky. I have seen games at inönü Stadium where fans from Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe, or Beşiktaş and Galatasaray, sit side by side in the covered stands, without any security measures. I’ve witnessed that. 
Later, riot police would sit in two rows right in the middle of the stands, separating fans. Then, rival fans started not being allowed into our stadiums, and those who were allowed would be made to sit behind cages in an inhuman way. 

I don’t know how on earth it happened, but it all happened simultaneously. As a matter of fact, people stopped watching games. Swearing in chants, burning stadiums, breaking chairs and throwing them onto the pitch, jumping onto the pitch and chasing players or the referee… 

In this country, fans have been killed with fire arms in the stands. Fans have been stabbed to death in the stands. We have killed a rival British fan in Taksim Square. We have killed rival fans in front of the stadiums, we have injured them, beaten them. 

Last year, one match could not be played because fans would not allow the rival team to enter the stadium. We passed a law “Preventing Violence in Sports,” but we have not seen it being practiced. 

All together, hand in hand, we have removed football from being a game, from being a two-hour bit of fun at the weekends. 

Our football has surrendered to violence and the language of violence. The real fan has left the stadiums and is not even watching the games on T.V. The fun of an entire society has become the battlefield of a handful of fanatics. 

Why are federation punishments not effective? 

The punishment for throwing materials onto the pitch, cheering with swear words, entering the pitch, etc. is to make teams play behind closed doors. This is quite a heavy penalty, but it has not deterred anyone. 

This year, especially, our big teams have played behind closed doors on numerous occasions. Moreover, there have also been heavy fine for the clubs. 

However, despite this, incidents cannot be prevented. I wonder why? 

Without beating around the bush: club administrations are not taking effective precautions. In some cases they even cause, or make way for violence themselves. 

This is our football’s most important issue: violence.

To eliminate this atmosphere, to prevent incidents in the stands, there are missions for the national federation and also missions individually for the clubs. 

But I guess the first thing to do is to agree on the fact that we have such a problem that needs to be fought with the most effective method.

Some of us, when asked, say, “Yes, this issue is important and has to be solved.” But when it comes to finding a solution, they act the other way around. 

In Turkey, as in other fields of life, I’m afraid, when the “civilian football administration” falls short of finding a solution to its own problem, the “state” will be called in. It will attempt to solve the issue like an elephant in a china shop. We should act before waiting for this to happen.

Do not ever forget this: football should essentially be a bit of fun for the middle and low income groups. 

Ýsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published April 20. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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