Turkish supporters show irritation for the ‘men in black’ again

Turkish supporters show irritation for the ‘men in black’ again

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish supporters show irritation for the ‘men in black’ again

Referee Abdullah Yılmaz was the main talking point after showing two red cards to Galatasaray in the Istanbul giant’s shocking 4-2 defeat to Gaziantepspor in a Super League game on Oct. 26.

The villains are back. Men in black, those sneaky agents that are assigned to destroy certain teams, returned with their plots. At least that’s what many fans feel.

Referees were the main talking point last week, when the eight and ninth Spor Toto Super League match days wrapped up.

Skewering referees is nothing new to Turkish football, but it reached an all season-high last week, mainly due to decisions in the Galatasaray-Gaziantepspor and the Fenerbahçe-Kardemir Karabük games.

Abdullah Yılmaz and Aytekin Durmaz were criticized for their decisions in the respective games, making it the season debut for lashing out at game officials.

Maybe it was due to the congested fixture, or the fact that there was not even a single referee detained in a gripping match-fixing scandal, but the discussion of referees started slower than usual. The first theory implies that the fans had little time to dwell on the referees when their teams were playing three games in a space of eight days. And the second was more blatant: There are a total of 31 key figures jailed pending trial in the ongoing match-fixing case, including club chairmen, coaches, players and team officials, but not a single referee.

But whether the result of the busy schedule, or the renewed trust of the referees, the silence is over now.

On Oct. 26, Yılmaz sent off Servet Çetin and Sabri Sarıoğlu; the first red card was especially a highly debatable call. A fierce tackle by Felipe Melo could have been the first red card of the day, but Yılmaz skipped that, and arguably, that changed everything.

All in all, it was terrible refereeing according to almost anyone. The fact that the game ended in a 4-2 defeat for Galatasaray made things look not so bright for the referee.

Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray’s archrival, faced a similar adjudication by the ref on Oct. 31. The team’s captain, Alex de Souza, was sent off for elbowing Kardemir Karabük’s Danilo Nikolic in the fifth minute. Durmaz’s decision was a rushed one, but it was hard to admit that he was misled by the exaggerated fall of the Serbian player. As many refs would do, Durmaz came under intense pressure after that moment, both from the home team fans and players. Durmaz could have easily sent off Emre Belözoğlu twice, once for his notorious bullying and again for a fierce tackle, but the ref was silent mostly. As Fenerbahçe coach Aykut Kocaman put it, that was “a referee losing control of the game in the fifth minute.” Fenerbahçe fans were not as calm and wise as the team’s gaffer and social media was filled with obscene messages of hatred toward Durmaz. Just as Yılmaz was a few days before.

Sure, it’s hard being a referee. Trying to be just all the time and pleasing everyone is a hard duty for any man and don’t forget the fact that they are running on the pitch more than anyone else. But it should be noted that Turkish referees have sometimes been punitive and harsh when they are trying to be too authoritative. They are deprived of empathy from fans, but they show little empathy to players as well.

Of course, in Turkey it gets all the worse when mistakes happen in big teams’ games, but it is not limited to Fener and Galatasaray.

For example, Bursaspor chairman İbrahim Yazıcı complained on Oct. 31 that his team was not awarded a penalty in the last 45 matches. An interesting use of statistics, isn’t it? But that is normal practice in Turkey. Further in the season, there may be a press statement from a club calling for a certain referee not to be assigned to their games, there may be a tele-conference showing wrong calls in slow-motion and there may even be a call to a referee to end his career.

If those seem odd enough, be prepared for more: They all happened in recent history.