Kurt, Turkish football’s ‘left winger,’ dead at 64

Kurt, Turkish football’s ‘left winger,’ dead at 64

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Kurt, Turkish football’s ‘left winger,’ dead at 64

Metin Kurt played for Galatasaray between 1970 and 1976, before he was forced out for ‘provoking Galatasaray players.’ Hürriyet photos

Prominent Turkish footballer Metin Kurt, who was renowned for his socialist views and efforts to unite professional athletes in a workers’ union, died due to heart failure on Aug. 24 at an Istanbul hospital. He was 64.

Galatasaray football club said in a statement posted on the club website that it was sorry to learn news of the player’s death.

“Metin Kurt, who played for Galatasaray between 1970 and 1976, had one of the biggest shares in the three titles won between 1970 and 1973 under coach Brian Birch,” the statement read.

Born on March 15, 1948, Kurt was a winger for Galatasaray and Turkey who had leftist political views and pioneered efforts to establish an athletes’ union in the country.

While leading such efforts, he was a victim of one-sided actions against players: When playing for Galatasaray, he rose up to demand a cup bonus that was not paid despite promises. Four teammates joined Kurt – leading to all being dropped from the squad until being “forgiven” a couple months later due to fan pressure.

‘Provoking players’

Kurt was offered a new contract by Galatasaray at the end of the season on the club’s terms, but he refused, resulting in him being sent to Kayserispor, prompting the Istanbul club to accuse him of “provoking Galatasaray players.”

Kurt played 150 games for Galatasaray, scoring 34 goals and winning the league title three years in a row from 1970 to 1973. He also played 37 games for the national team.

Kurt founded the Amateur Athletes’ Association in the late 1970s, which was thwarted from its plans to form a union by the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup.

In December 2010, Kurt was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Sports Workers’ Union (Spor-Sen) and its first president. “Today, sports are not just games, and the athletes are not just players,” Kurt said at the time. “The dominant mentality of the day has commercialized sports, turning athletes into sports workers. All the actors in the sector are trying to get the lion’s share of the pie.”
According to Kurt, there was a need for “democratic struggle” in sports because “the relationship between an athlete and an executive is similar to the relation between a slave and his master.”

The prominent footballer also ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) in Istanbul in the 2011 general elections. In 2009, a biography of Kurt, written by Vecdi Çıracıoğlu, was published with the title “Gladyatör - Futbol Arenalarında Bir İsyanın Hikayesi” (Gladiator – The Story of a Rebellion in Football Arenas).

Rock group Kesmeşeker also immortalized Kurt’s struggle with a song titled “Metin Kurt Yalnızlığı” (Metin Kurt Loneliness).