MP comments deepen political rumors in match-fixing probe

MP comments deepen political rumors in match-fixing probe

ISTANBUL / TRABZON - Hürriyet Daily News
MP comments deepen political rumors in match-fixing probe

Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, (R) wearing a Trabzonspor scarf, poses with the fans of the team from his hometown. Bayraktar’s statements drew the ire of Fenerbahçe fans. DHA photo

Turkish Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar’s comments that they were “subtly working” to deliver the Turkish league title to Trabzonspor drew the ire of Fenerbahçe club and supporters yesterday.

Fenerbahçe club and fan unions released statements, while fans took to social media after the minister made his comments in his hometown, the Black Sea province of Trabzon.

“If Trabzonspor is happy, the whole of Turkey is happy. If Trabzonspor develops, Turkey sends out a strong message,” he said at a ceremony in Trabzon in a reference to the now-investigated 2011 Super League title won by Fenerbahçe.

“Now we are subtly working to get Trabzonspor’s trophy. I hope we will bring the trophy that Trabzonspor deserves. I hope God will show us the day.”

The statements came amid Fenerbahçe fans’ claims that the ongoing match-fixing investigation, as part of which the club’s Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and three other members were jailed pending trial, was a political plot against the team.

Fenerbahçe strongly condemned Bayraktar’s statements.

“We are shocked and upset after learning that a minister, who is responsible for protecting the rights of each and every one of the individuals in the nation, unveils some subtle plans against our league title,” the club said in a statement. “Even if we want to see those statements as populism in our most optimistic approach, it is impossible to accept them in any way.”

One of Fenerbahçe’s fan groups, Ünifeb, was even stronger in its response.

“Erdoğan Bayraktar’s words are clearly showing what Fenerbahçe fans were reacting against since [the investigation started],” a statement read. “We demand an immediate explanation of those words and announce that we will not forget this event and we will closely watch how those words affect the [judicial] process. We will not let go of this situation until Erdoğan Bayraktar resigns from his post.”
Fenerbahçe fans staged several protests since the investigation became public July 3, 2011, with claims that this was the state’s plan to take over the coveted hot seat at the club, taking over Yıldırım, arguably the most influential man in Turkish football.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has yet to announce a decision on the match-fixing case, but it barred Fenerbahçe from playing in the lucrative Champions League, effectively forcing the club to sell several key players at the start of the season. League runner-up Trabzonspor replaced Fenerbahçe in the top-level European club competition.

Bayraktar was given a chance to explain yesterday but was defiant. “I said they are carefully working, and at the end, they will give us the trophy, which were my own thoughts,” he told reporters. “If Trabzonspor had not deserved it, why would they call us to the competition? By ‘us’ I mean Trabzonspor. I say it again, if Trabzonspor was called to play [in the Champions League], it deserves the title.”

Bayraktar was the center of reaction from Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe’s fierce rival, as well last year, when he made a speech during the opening of the club’s state-funded Türk Telekom Arena.

Then as the head of TOKİ, Turkey’s Housing Development Administration, the builder of the stadium, Bayraktar said, “the club never had the power to build such a stadium,” causing fiery protests from 40,000 fans in the stands.