Quake or cleaning in Turkish football?

Now and then I publish guest blog posts on my site, written by Turkish journalists. The third guest blog post is written by Engin Baş. Engin worked as correspondent in Athens for several Turkish media and as a journalist for several (online versions of) papers, like Radikal, Hürriyet and Sabah. Now he is a freelance journalist. He is especially interested in soccer – not only the game, but also the politics.

This blog post is written by Engin Baş (see boxed text).

After gaining half of the votes of the Turkish voters and being elected for the third time in nine years as dominating party in parliament, everybody expected AKP to deal with Turkey’s most important issue, the Kurdish problem. But it seems they aim higher: soccer match fixing. It is one of the biggest prosecutions not only in Turkish football history but also one of the biggest cases opened by the prosecuters who also deal with the Ergenekon trials. Till now, Aziz Yıldırım (President of the current Champion Fenerbahçe), two Vice Presidents and 61 football related figures have been taken into custudy as a result of the match fixing inquiry.

Fenerbahçe is one of the biggest clubs in Turkey, also when it comes to number of supporters: 25 million. Considering football is a secret religion for Turks, Islamic rooted party AKP has a real battle this time even though they have taken 21 million votes and half of the countries’ approval not more than a month ago…

The operation is directed by the Special Autorized Prosecuters (SAP). According to Turkish laws, in order to involve the SAP, there has to be a well organized gang. That this is actually the case, is confirmed by the arrest of Olgun Peker. He is a ‘soul brother’ of Sedat Peker, who is a very known maffia leader and imprisoned also for being involved in Ergenekons armed structure. This update confirms the situation is fragile for Turkish soccer.

Erdoğan is Fenerbahçe fan

Such an operation cannot be done by normal officers in Turkey. If you are going to take the President of Fenerbahçe under custudy at 7am, it means you have to ask your superiors and he has to ask his. Aziz Yıldırım is not just a football figure in Turkey. He is one of the biggest construction entrepreneurs, who is making roads and buildings in countries like Afganistan, Pakinstan, etcetera. He also deals with arms bussiness and so on.

Therefore its easy to think that Prime Minister Erdogan knew and was well informed about the case. That he is not getting involved in the case nor demanding the SAP’s to slow down, means that match fixing has become institutionalized in Turkish football. Not only Erdogan, also people in the street have been complaining about the match fixing in Turkey. During the election campaign there have been protests in the city of Trabzon. That city’s team lost the league championship to Fenerbahçe. To give an example, this is all similar to opening an inquiry in Italy into Milan during Berlusconi’s term. When it comes to football, Erdoğan wants to be remembered not only as a Fenerbahçe fan.

More waves expected

It’s obvious that the events had an earthquake effect on football fans. But it seems it’s not over and there is more to come. It’s been told that in tapes some names of referees are mentioned. Ex Turkish football Federation President Mahmut Özgener will be very likely be called by SAPs also. The number of people arrested can be up to two hundred. As most of teams are camping abroad for new season now, it will be no suprise if the story gets even bigger when they return.

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