K E I R R A D N E D G E C O M M E N T A R Y
— From the wreckage, literal and metaphorical, of a tumultuous end to the football season, Turkey’s sports leaders and politicians have 10 days in which to put the battered pieces of their big-event bids back together.
One fan was stabbed and dozens of others hurt and arrested amid angry chaos at the end of Saturday night’s league title decider when 2011 champions Fenerbahce lost the crown, in their own stadium, to old ‘enemy’ Galatasaray.
Fenerbache, unbeaten in their Sukru Saracoglu home for two years, needed to win to retain the crown.
Galatasaray needed only a draw as the play-off series climaxed a campaign overshadowed by the tangled matchfixing scandal.
The match, in which Euro 2012 referee Cuneyt Cakir sent off a player from each club, ended goalless.
At the final whistle hundreds of Fenerbahce fans, upset at what they consider a deliberate off-field plot against their club, stormed the pitch.
Flares and ripped-out plastic seats were thrown at police who responded with pepper spray. Fighting continued outside the stadium where rioters overturned two police vehicles, smashed shop windows and stoned a water cannon. Sensibly, the Turkish federation had banned Galatasaray fans from attending the game.
More clashes erupted between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray fans in the centre of Istanbul and other cities.
Galatasaray, champions for the 18th time, eventually returned to the pitch for the trophy presentation as ordered by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan who is a member of Fenerbahce’s general assembly.
The angry scenes were set in the context of the match-fix scandal which prompted an ongoing trial of officials and players though the Turkish federation has cleared all accused clubs – including Fenerbahce – of complicity.
Now the Turks must work overtime to put their troubles behind them and mount a rapid-fire charm offensive.
Billions at stake
This is not about ‘merely’ football. At stake are billions of dollars-worth of development investment over the next decade, not to mention NATO contracts in a country which – to the east – borders Syria, Iraq, Iran, Georgia and Armenia.
On Tuesday or Wednesday, in Nyon, European football federation UEFA is likely to confirm Turkey as only bidder to host Euro 2020; on May 23, in Quebec, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee will consider whether Istanbul should be among the bidders going forward to the final round of campaigning to land the 2020 summer Games.
If the Turks wins IOC approval to carry on bidding they can assess the Euro v Olympics dilemma – hosting both is out of the question – in a calmer atmosphere.
Good news for Istanbul is that most of the other bidders, with the exception of Tokyo, have their problems, too.
Baku, from Azerbaijan, has never hosted anything remotely comparable to an Olympic Games and the country sits a dismal 143rd in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception rankings; Doha, from Qatar, worries the IOC’s American TV paymasters because it wants to shift the Games off its traditional summer time-slot; and Madrid is at risk from the effect of the ongoing Eurozone crisis on the Spanish economy.
Let the latest round of public relations games begin . . .
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