Gülenist cleanse launched in Turkish Football Federation
ISTANBULMembers of the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) affiliated boards have resigned for “security checks” amid a wide-ranging state investigation into the July 15 failed coup attempt, the federation has said in a statement.
The TFF also said it shared information with relevant state institutions about all its employees, competition organizers and the chairmen and members of its 11 affiliated boards.
So far, more than 60,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service, academia, media and other sectors have been detained, suspended or placed under investigation over suspected links with a U.S.-based Islamic scholar Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup.
Turkey had demanded the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gülen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, for leading the coup attempt and building a “parallel state” organization infiltrating into several state bodies.
The impact of Gülen on Turkish football has been an issue since the start of a broad match-fixing probe in 2011.
Zekeriya Öz, a former prosecutor who was decorated with special authorizations, launched the probe, which mainly focused on Fenerbahçe, along with several other clubs. Öz, who was also in charge in the Ergenekon coup attempt case, is now at large to avoid prosecution for his links to Gülenists.
Hüseyin Gülerce, a former Gülen aide, said during an interview on CNN Türk on July 31 that the rigging case was launched to “eliminate” Aziz Yıldırdım, the Fenerbahçe president, a claim that is also embraced by Yıldırım himself.
Yıldırım was first sentenced to jail in 2012 and fined 1.3 million Turkish Liras ($560,000) for forming a criminal group and engaging in match-fixing during the 2010-2011 season. He served around one year behind bars before being freed pending a retrial.
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court later issued a unanimous ruling that acquitted Yıldırım.
“Aziz Yıldırım was annoyed by a friend’s remarks over Gülen during a plane trip. Then, that friend told the issue to Gülen, who got angry with this. This is why the rigging operation was launched. They did not want Yıldırım’s negative thoughts about Gülen to be dominant in the largest club in Turkey,” Gülerce said.
Meanwhile, a three-month state of emergency will not affect Turkish football matches, TFF President Yıldırım Demirören said last week.
“All international and local sports events will continue as planned,” Demirören said in a July 28 statement.
“As the TFF, we are totally supporting this stance and have already hosted a game in Ankara, Osmanlıspor-Zimbru in the UEFA Europa League, without any issues.”
“I would like to announce once again that all matches in our leagues from the top division to the lowest tier amateur are being played without any issues,” he said.
“This same approach will also be applied for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and all other international matches.”
Turkey’s top two football divisions start on Aug. 19, with the lower league season commencing on Sept. 3.