ISTANBUL: Turkish sport will take either a step onwards and upwards or descend further into confusion tomorrow/Monday when Head Judge Mehmet Ekinci announces final verdict in the long-running matchfix trial writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The case has cast a long shadow over Turkish sport, politics and commercial concerns as well as the rival bids to host, in 2020, the European football finals as well as the Olympic Games in Istanbul.

The Çağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul will be the setting as it has been on and off ever since the first wave of arrests last July 3 over claims that games in the top two divisions had been fixed in the 2010-11 season. Some 93 players, coaches and officials were accused.

Prosecutor Ufuk Ermertcan has demanded jail terms for 21 of the accused including several officials from Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor as well as players from Eskisehirspor, Sivasspor, Genclerbirliği and Bursaspor. Two officials from Beşiktaş are also listed as suspects for their alleged attempts to manipulate the team’s 2011 Turkish Cup win over Istanbul BB.

Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yıldırım, arguably the most powerful man in Turkish football, is the highest profile name in the case and has been held in custody since last year. Fellow Fenerbahçe official İlhan Ekşioğlu, former Giresunspor chairman and alleged mob leader Olgun Peker and player agent Yusuf Turanlı are the remaining four people jailed pending charges.

The Turkish Football Federation undertook its own investigation on the scandal, and decided that there were efforts to manipulate some matches, but they were “not reflected on the pitch.” The TFF cleared all 16 Turkish clubs, including Fenerbahçe, of involvement in an alleged match-fixing scandal, but it has banned players and club officials for manipulating and attempting to manipulate games.

İbrahim Akın, who was with Istanbul BB when accused, was banned for two years for fixing a Fenerbahce-Istanbul BB match, while former Genclerbirliği goalkeeper Serdar Kulbilge was given a three-game ban for attempting to fix a Genclerbirligi-Fenerbahçe match. Three Fenerbahce officials – İlhan Eksioglu, Cemil Turan and Sekip Mosturoglu – were also suspended.

Yıldırım, who has denied all charges, complained in wrapping up his defence that he no longer trusted the state.

He said: “I used to trust the state but I have no trust for the state anymore. After seeing the prison, I don’t trust the state. There are people held in jail for 50 Turkish liras. I think they do not trust the state, either.”

Yıldırım has complained that the case was a plot to take over control of Fenerbahce, Turkey’s biggest independently-owned club.

He said: “The Republic of Fenerbahçe has developed side by side with the Turkish Republic. It has been representing Turkish youth following [founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk for decades. That is the reason why there are efforts to damage the club.”

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