Landmark rigging case starts with stadium-like atmosphere

Landmark rigging case starts with stadium-like atmosphere

SİLİVRİ , Istanbul - Hürriyet Daily News
Landmark rigging case starts with stadium-like atmosphere

Fenerbahçe and Sivasspor fans chant outside the Silivri courthouse, where the two Super League clubs’ chairmen Aziz Yıldırım and Mecnun Odyakmaz are being tried as part of the ongoing match-fixing case. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The landmark match-fixing case started with its first hearing yesterday, with thousands of Fenerbahçe fans creating a stadium-like atmosphere at the Silivri courthouse. 

Prosecutors allege there have been deep-rooted ties between the sport and mafia and several attempts to manipulate the country’s top-flight football championship, making the case a pivotal one since it is the first time that officials from leading Turkish clubs are being tried. 

The fans were there to show their support to the team’s five officials, but especially to the club’s chairman, Aziz Yıldırım, who is seen as the centerpiece of the case. 

A total of 93 football officials, players and coaches are listed as suspects in the case which started after Istanbul police found that several matches were allegedly manipulated last season. At least eight teams’ officials were involved in the case, but it proved to be a more crucial case for Fenerbahçe, last season’s Spor Toto Super League champion, since Yıldırım, arguably the most influential man in Turkish football, is the top-profile man tried in the case. 

Yıldırım, along with 22 other officials, has been jailed pending trial in Metris Prison since early July and yesterday’s hearing meant a “reunion” of the chairman with the fans, as he put it in a statement released a day before the hearing. 

Outside the courthouse, people with jerseys, carrying banners, chanting slogans and even lighting fireworks created a stadium-like atmosphere at the courthouse. 

After the midday break, Fenerbahçe board member Mithat Yenigün went to fans and cited Yıldırım thanking the fans and asking them “not to come again in this cold weather.” 

After the reading of the 400-page indictment, which will continue today, the hearings are expected to be held at Çağlayan Courthouse in central Istanbul. 

“Those are routine talks,” Yenigün quoted Yıldırım as saying. “You can come to Çağlayan on Wednesday.” 

Several media outlets also quoted Yıldırım’s statements during the break. 

Yıldırım strongly denied accusations about paying incentives to Istanbul BB player İbrahim Akın. 

“They say I paid $100,000 to Akın,” Yıldırım reportedly said. “Where is that money, in which account? If they can prove I paid him, I would jump from the [Bosphorus] bridge!” 

“They say match-fixing. What match-fixing!” Yıldırım also said. “The country is getting out of hand, but all they talk about is match-fixing.” 

Yıldırım also added he would release a “very strong” statement today and he would face all the pundits “when he is out.” 

Alleged mobster Olgun Peker is noted as the number one suspect in the case for allegedly “forming an illegal organization to gain income in illegal ways.” 

Apart from Yıldırım, board member Şekip Mosturoğlu, chief financial officer Tamer Yelkovan and club official and former goal-scoring legend Cemil Turan are other Fenerbahçe officials also jailed pending trial. 

Sivasspor chairman Mecnun Odyakmaz and former Sivasspor and Eskişehirspor coach Bülent Uygun are the other key names being held in the Metris Prison. 

Trabzonspor Chairman Sadri Şener, former Beşiktaş board member Serdal Adalı, Istanbul BB players İbrahim Akın and İskender Alın, former player Ümit Karan and former Sivasspor goalkeeper Korcan Çelikay are also suspects but were not jailed.

Turkey, match fixing,