Turkish Minister slams federation over Atatürk, Mandela ‘vest verdict’
KÜTAHYA – Doğan News Agency
Galatasaray's Didier Drogba from Ivory Coast salutes football fans while wearing a jersey in a sign of respect for Nelson Mandela before the league match with Elazigspor in Istanbul, Dec. 6, 2013. AP PhotoSports Minister Suat Kılıç has criticized the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) over its ruling to refer footballers to the disciplinary board, for their commemorating of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and anti-Apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
Kılıç said both Turkish and the global public had evaluated this act as a step taken by the government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We do not desire Turkish football to be on the agenda with some footballers’ expressions,” he said on Dec. 9 in Kütahya, adding that they could not stand aside and let Atatürk become an issue of debate, as he is one of the “common values of Turkey.”
Kılıç also said Mandela was an "icon for the entire world and for African footballers," and added that the TFF should not become involved in such issues.
Mandela tribute vests
The TFF has recently started to display a determination to "keep political messages off the pitch," in light of a number of prominent recent examples.
Legendary striker Didier Drogba and defender Emmanuel Eboue, were referred to the Professional Football Discipline Committee (PFDK) for wearing t-shirts commemorating Mandela during a league game on Dec. 6.
Drogba’s t-shirt read “Thank you, Madiba” while Eboue’s said “Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela,” in respect of the man who changed the course of world history by putting an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
The TFF justified the decision by arguing the players wore the t-shirts in the match against Elazığspor without receiving permission beforehand. Both players displayed the shirts after the conclusion of the game, which the Lions won 2-0.
Fethiyespor was also recently referred for disciplinary action after its players wore t-shirts reading “Great Atatürk” during the national anthem ahead of its Dec. 4 Turkish Cup game against Fenerbahçe. The TFF said the gesture had brought politics onto the field, but was criticized by Kılıç, who warned the federation against taking “divisive decisions.”
Each Fethiyespor player wore a t-shirt carrying one large letter, and arranged themselves in line to spell out “YÜCE ATATÜRK” (Great Atatürk) during the national anthem at Fenerbahçe’s home stadium.
After the match, the TFF announced that it had referred the Mediterranean club to the disciplinary committee on the grounds that Atatürk had been "used politically."