Red Star chair seeks to warmly welcome Galatasaray in Euroleague after Istanbul murder

Red Star chair seeks to warmly welcome Galatasaray in Euroleague after Istanbul murder

BELGRADE - Anadolu Agency
Red Star chair seeks to warmly welcome Galatasaray in Euroleague after Istanbul murder

Red Star Belgrade Chairman Nebojsa Covic.

The chairman of Serbia’s Red Star basketball club has voiced his hope that there will be no negative incidents surrounding an upcoming Turkish Airlines Euroleague Last 16 game in Belgrade against Galatasaray, which comes after the murder of a Serbian fan in Istanbul on Nov. 21, 2014, when the sides last met.

“We do not see any other club as enemies, we are focused on the sports and we want to bring people closer together,” Red Star Belgrade Chairman Nebojsa Covic told Anadolu Agency ahead of the Jan. 16 game

Covic said he expected a normal game, adding that the Serbian authorities would take all precautions to ensure the safety of the Galatasaray squad.

A 25-year-old Red Star fan, Marko Ivkovic, was stabbed to death in clashes with Galatasaray supporters before a Euroleague group stage match on Nov. 21. The incident caused uproar in Serbia and calls for revenge from some fan groups, while also creating concerns about future matches between Turkish and Serbian teams.  

An Istanbul prosecutor last week demanded an 18-year jail term for Kadri Aktaş, who is accused of killing Ivkovic, along with six others allegedly involved in the murder.

Covic recalled that the game would be closed to Galatasaray fans after a decision by the Euroleague.

“There will be no Galatasaray fans in Belgrade, and no Red Star fans in Istanbul. Given the circumstances, I believe this is the right decision,” he added.

Covic also said Galatasaray coach Ergin Atman would have the chance to directly deliver his apologies to the Serbian public for his “emotional and careless remarks he made after the game.”

After the previous match, Ataman accused the killed young man and all other Red Star fans of “terrorism,” but later apologized, writing on his Twitter account on Nov. 22 that he was not aware of the killing when he made the remarks.

“My deepest condolences to Red Star club and the fans. I’m deeply saddened by their loss, this tragedy has no place in sport or life,” Ataman wrote.

However, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Galatasaray coach Ataman would not be welcome in Serbia.

Ataman was reportedly banned from entering Serbia with a recent vote in the country’s Parliament.

Speaking to daily Zaman, Ataman said he had not officially been notified of this ban.

“Our club is in talks with the Foreign Ministry and the Turkish Embassy in Belgrade; there is no official notice. I want to be in Belgrade with my team,” he said.

Galatsaray board member Cem Kınay said Ataman would travel with the team.

“We asked Euroleague to play both Red Star games on neutral ground, but our request was rejected. Ataman’s not going to Belgrade is out of question. We will go there with our coach,” he added.