Monday, July 15, 2024

The Latest Football News and Opinions From 90 Minutes Online

Fenerbahçe- A Lig Of Their Own

Ali Koç the club president of Fenerbahçe

As the country prepares to co- host Euro 2032 alongside Italy, it would seem that somewhere near the top of the Turkish Football Federation's priority list has to be sorting out the multitude of problems currently rife in the domestic game...




Perhaps most radically brought to light by Fenerbahçe, whose members took the extraordinary step of holding a vote on the possibility of withdrawal from the Super Lig! Ultimately, they opted to stay put, but the fact they were even willing to consider a future outside the league suggests that the state of the game in their country is far from healthy...

But where do the roots of Fener's protestations lie? It would seem the nineteen-time champions developed a sizeable bee in their bonnet in the aftermath of a 3-2 win at Trabzonspor. Club president Ali Koç suggesting the ugly scenes of home fans storming the pitch and attacking players was but one consideration in the threat to remove themselves from the competition-

“Since the beginning of the century, a string of bizarre, unjust and unacceptable events, on and off the field, have led us to rethink our position in Turkey’s football environment.”

And rethink they did, however briefly, following a vote at their own Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the referee for the match was one Halil Umut Meler- the same hapless official punched by Faruk Koca, Koç's equal at Ankaragucu, earlier in the season!

How it took that incident to even begin to bring to light the rapidly emerging wider issues in Turkish football is anyone's guess, but he was no doubt grateful that the tastiest he got following his latest performance was the hint that his licence to take charge of games should be revoked.

Another layer is added to the plot when considering Koç's contention that had they left the Lig, his club would be no better off in terms of dodging the persecution he alleges they've received long-term in the top flight...

“In all our meetings, the least preferred option was to withdraw from the league. The reason why this opinion is not wanted is that people think we would have to deal in the lower league with the same things we deal with here.”

Yet if we look at the punishments meted out to those players who intervened against the pitch invaders, the decision not to take further action against former QPR man Bright Osayi-Samuel, even after the winger had thrown a punch, suggests the TFF accepted he had been acting in self-defence. Thus putting the slightest of dents in the claim that they and others were vehemently anti-Fener. 

The player was seen representing the club alongside manager Ismail Kartal at the momentous vote over whether to pull themselves free of the Lig mere days after the incident. In a demonstration of the now renewed pull of the president over the club, the Athletic described the build-up as similar to a home game in execution and style!

“A stage worthy of a music festival was erected on one side of the stadium, with two big screens either side.

The backdrop was split into three: one section was the Turkish flag, one the club crest and, between them, an image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, who the club claim as a supporter and a sort of patron saint.

Underneath the stage, “fair competition” was written in big white letters.”

Was all this merely a stunt to improve Koç's standing with the fans, which has itself waxed and waned in the six years he's been in office? After all, it's he who's presided over the club's longest trophyless spell since the modern Turkish league system was founded in 1959, so how better to shift the blame than by pointing the finger at the biggest possible scapegoats of all?

Not quite so black and white, then, it would seem, for the boys in yellow and black. To add yet another talking point, the reasoning behind the stand against an institution Koç sees as inherently biased against them, would seem to be part of a wider strategy aimed at fairer reform of the league itself.

In his address to the club's members, he said “The action Fenerbahçe is contemplating is not aiming for justice only for our club, but also for the rest of Turkish football. Hopefully, our actions will act as a wake-up call and become a catalyst in the retransformation of the game.”

In not pursuing that action, then, it could be said that such efforts are at least for now delayed, the compromise of refusing to play in the cup seen as a cop-out by those who would have preferred to play against Galatasaray, who Koç sees as the unfairly backed beneficiaries from all this, and beat them in a victory for what they see as the underdog.

As it was, though, a youth team was sent out to face them in the Super Cup final, the likes of former Chelsea man Michy Batshuayi, who scored the winner against Trabzonspor, and Fred, once of Manchester United given a breather as the Europa Conference League tie with Olympiakos was deemed more important. Mauro Icardi's strike, with barely fifty seconds on the clock, enough to seal it for a jubilant Gala as their opponents simply walked off the pitch after the goal and never returned.

Predictably in line with their grievances, the club barely acknowledged the game as having been played, and Koç had more grandstanding to do!

“It is time for a ‘reset’ for Turkish football. We are in a period when the swamp must be drained and Turkish football must rebuild itself. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

I hope that the justified rebellions of our club and the actions we decided to take out of necessity will ignite the cleansing process that needs to be done.

This is the time when impartiality, fair competition and sporting ethics must come to the fore.”

Nevertheless, the walk-off brought with it consequences- a 3-0 win awarded to Galatasaray and £98,450 fine handed down. Not that any of this will matter to a team who took to the field that day "not to win, but to defend the truth".

How big a moral victory it proves to be, and the possible implications for the Euros bid, could rumble on a while yet, with yet another vote on exiting stage left to come at the end of the season for Fenerbahçe- could they really go through with it this time in an extreme case of no second chances?

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