Sale of luxury box to Zarrab shakes Beşiktaş
CİHAN PhotoBeşiktaş enjoyed a 5-1 win against Istanbul’s Kasımpaşa on April 18, but the brilliant score line failed to satisfy many supporters, especially renowned fan group çArşı, who have expressed their anger at the purchase of a luxury box in the club’s under-construction stadium by controversial businessman Reza Zarrab, who was involved in Turkey’s largest graft probe.
Zarrab paid 1.2 million Turkish Liras in cash for the 12-person box in the stadium which is being constructed on the site of the team’s historic İnönü Stadium in central Istanbul, media reports said last week.
The fan group, dozens of members of which are on trial on charges they attempted to lead a coup during the 2013 Gezi Park protests, reacted to Zarrab’s move, saying on their Twitter account that Beşiktaş would remain “the team of the people.”
A group also hung a placard at the gate of the team headquarters in Beşiktaş, reading: “Beşiktaş [is the club] of Atom Ant Rızas, not thief Rezas,” referring to legendry captain and former coach Rıza Çalımbay, who is known for his hardworking and modest character. The reactions went viral on social media, with many calling on the club to reconsider the sale.
However, Beşiktaş Chairman Fikret Orman, who admits to recently having dinner with Zarrab, defended his stance, saying “Beşiktaş is a sports club, not a political club.”
In earlier remarks, Orman argued that Zarrab was not convicted of any bribery and that it was normal to sell him a box that would bring in revenues for the cash-strapped club, which faced a levy for its former debts earlier in the week.
“I did not hear about the claims that that Zarrab was a Fenerbahçe fan actually. While in a meeting with him, I saw in the eyes of Zarrab that he is a Beşiktaş fan,” he said in a comment that frustrated fans the most.
Latif Demirci, the front-page cartoonist of Hürriyet, recently portrayed a Beşiktaş jersey with the ad of a famous luxury clock.
The brand was mentioned in the graft probe that came in two waves on Dec. 17 and 25 in 2013 and investigated claims that Zarrab had bribed four then-cabinet ministers. All were found not guilty both in court and in a parliamentary commission. Zarrab was accused of giving a 700,000-lira watch to then-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, a claim that was denied by all parties.
Beşiktaş said in a written statement that Hürriyet overstepped the line of free speech with the cartoon, arguing that it aimed at destroying the image of Beşiktaş.