Once a devoted player, now a more devoted politician

Once a devoted player, now a more devoted politician

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Once a devoted player, now a more devoted politician

Probably the most controversial player ever on the Turkish football scene, former striker Hakan Şükür’s performance as a lawmaker is similarly an object of heated debate.

Haydar Akar was probably cheering for Hakan Şükür when the star footballer scored World Cup’s fastest ever goal, in the 11th second of the third place game against co-host South Korea on June 29, 2002. No one could guess they would be on opposite sides of an argument in Parliament almost a decade later.

A brawl on March 8, reportedly involving Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Akar and Resul Boydak, an advisor to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Şükür, was the latest event in the political career of the much loved - and hated - former football star.

Glamorous career
Despite his glamorous career, with numbers to prove that he is the most successful Turkish footballer in history, Hakan Şükür has always been subject to fierce criticism. Even when he was the top scorer in the Turkish league in three consecutive seasons from 1997 to 1999, he was still under fire for the goals he missed. Many even went further, saying all Şükür had to do was to “stand at a suitable point from which George Hagi could bounce the ball off him to score.”

Such criticism was why Şükür always felt he was underrated and did not get the credit he deserved. “Some things are never appreciated in Turkey, the typical Turkish mentality is to pull down someone climbing,” Şükür said in an interview in 2006. “No other footballer has been criticized as harshly as me; I was even declared a traitor. But I pray a lot, show patience and reach a happy ending.”

That mentality, together with strong religious beliefs, helped Şükür submit to authority. Be it his father, or Fatih Terim, his coach for years at Galatasaray and the national team, or Fethullah Gülen, a controversial Islamic cleric for whom Şükür ‘never [his] love secret,’ or Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan, the star player was always happy to get advise from his “elders.”

But such devotion backfired on his first days in active politics, when Şükür was asked about his opinion on Hatip Dicle, an independent deputy who was stripped of his post by a Supreme Election Board decision after the July 2 elections.

“I could not follow the developments, our experienced elders, ministers will evaluate the situation,” Şükür told reporters, sending a clear message that he would be in Parliament to do as told.

Under fire
Şükür has recently been under fire for his commentator job in Lig TV, Turkish league’s official broadcaster, which requires him to follow the games and be on TV three nights a week. Opposition lawmakers have been arguing that Şükür’s employment by a private company, for a reported 100,000 Turkish Liras a month, creates ethical problems. The situation has also been criticized by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, but Şükür knew where to roll the ball.

“I informed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about the contract and he told me I could go ahead if there was no legal obstacle, the rest is just empty words,” said Şükür, making it clear whose words mattered to him.

Listening to his “elders” helped Şükür boost his football career and now he keeps the same attitude for a successful career in politics. Lawmakers will not be hearing Turkey’s most accomplished footballer speaking in Parliament about why the Olympic Games is usually just a pleasure trip for the country’s athletes, unless he is advised to do so.