Yıldırım, Aydınlar head into tense Fenerbahçe presidential race

Yıldırım, Aydınlar head into tense Fenerbahçe presidential race

Yıldırım, Aydınlar head into tense Fenerbahçe presidential race

Chairman Aziz Yıldırım speaks in front of a Fenerbahçe squad poster including the club’s athletes and board members from several branches. Yıldırım aims to hold his seat while being challenged by former friend and current enemy, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar. AA photo

Spor Toto Super League leader Fenerbahçe faces a tough test at Bursaspor on Nov. 2, but the match looks set to be somewhat overshadowed by the tough presidential race earlier on the same day.

Aziz Yıldırım is bidding to extend his spell, which started on 1998, but he is challenged by former friend and current bitter enemy Mehmet Ali Aydınlar.

Yıldırım will be within touching distance of becoming Fenerbahçe’s longest-serving president if he wins the election. The record is currently held by Şükrü Saracoğlu, a former prime minister, who held the Fenerbahçe chair between 1934 and 1950.

Despite being the only Fener chairman to have overseen five national league titles, in addition to huge leaps in the club’s other branches such as basketball and volleyball, Yıldırım is far from the invincible man he was a few years ago. For the first time in a decade, his leadership is being questioned, especially after a gripping match-fixing scandal led to the club’s two-year suspension from European competitions.

In July 2011, 93 club officials, coaches and players were charged in a civil trial which centered around the club’s 2010/11 league-winning run. After spending one year in prison on charges of match fixing, Yıldırım was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released from custody based on time already served after launching an appeal. Even if he wins the election, Yıldırım still risks being stripped of his presidential badge, depending on the ruling of the appeals court.

However, his rival, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, is hardly the man to challenge Yıldırım’s throne. Having worked with Yıldırım at Fenerbahçe Acıbadem, the club’s highly successful women’s volleyball branch, Aydınlar’s reputation at the club dipped with his spell as the Turkish Football Federation (TFF). Although his spell lasted only half a year, Aydınlar’s name was carved in football annals as the man at the helm when Fenerbahçe was first barred from playing in the Champions League in the summer of 2011.

Yıldırım made much of that idea during a press conference on Nov. 1. He said Aydınlar cooperated with Lutfi Arıboğan and Ebru Köksal, two then-TFF executive members who later took on duties on the Galatasaray board, before asking, “Mr. Aydınlar, is it normal that Galatasaray fans support you? Are you a Galatasaray fan? Will Fenerbahçe join Galatasaray if you are elected?”

Aydınlar had earlier said it was he who “saved” Fenerbahçe from an even heavier punishment from UEFA.

It is clear that the presidential voting will go down as one of the most heated races in the club’s recent history, and only one of Yıldırım or Aydınlar will watch the Nov. 2 match between Bursaspor and Fenerbahçe as the club’s chairman.

Fenerbahçe currently leads the league with 22 points, four points adrift of second Kasımpaşa, which visits Kayseri Erciyesspor on the same evening.

On Nov. 3, Beşiktaş hosts Kardemir Karabükspor, Çaykur Rizespor meets Akhisar and Trabzonspor meets Sanica Boru Elazığspor.