Mon, 08 Aug 2022

Fans of the Turkish club cheered the Russian president's name during a match against Dynamo Kiev

Turkish football club Fenerbahce will not apologize to Ukraine for an incident being investigated by European football governing body UEFA, the club's president has confirmed.

Fenerbahce were knocked out of qualification for the Champions League midweek when they lost 2-1 to Dynamo Kiev at home.

When Vitaly Buyalsky scored the opening goal for the visitors, a celebration that was deemed provocative by Fenerbahce fans resulted in them chanting the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Though it did not mention the chants specifically, UEFA launched an investigation into 'alleged behavior' which Fenerbahce responded to with its own statement condemning the chants but demanding that sports be kept out of politics. 

On Saturday, at a High Council meeting, Fenerbahce President Ali Koc addressed the row and started by saying: "We will not apologize to Ukraine."

"After the statements of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson and Ambassador, he should apologize to us," Koc insisted, with the spokesperson having tweeted: "Our armed forces beat Putin 2-1 on Turkish soil. We recommend Turkish fans to be on the winning side."

"We're talking about a 20-second event. It happened after the first goal, the second goal and did not happen at the end of the match. It was an unseemly cheer," Koc confessed.

"Why that reaction? Before the match even started, a goalkeeper who used to play football in Turkey made the symbol of his old club and [provoked] the stands. There is a clear incentive."

Koc wanted to make it clear that he found the chant "inappropriate, even in a moment of anger" and, while condemning Russia's military operation in Ukraine, he also condemned those two who treat the club's fans with "unfair discourse".

On UEFA's disciplinary investigation, Koc admitted that he didn't know what would come of it. 

"We prepared a very good defense," he explained. "Everything that happened is recorded and fixed. It's obvious why."

"[Just] 20 seconds, [but] taking this and charging it to Fenerbahce and Turkey is absolutely unacceptable. UEFA should not apply double standards. Sports and politics should not be intertwined. Sport has been used for peace throughout history. Sport is above politics and is used for peace," he insisted, before questioning if UEFA will dictate what fans cheer in the stands. 

Koc also reminded those in attendance of when UEFA didn't allow the Turkish national team to wear a black armband after the October 2007 Sirnak ambush but let Italy do so to mourn soldiers that lost their lives in Afghanistan. 

"Who decides what and how? What is the criterion?" he asked. "[Paolo] Dybala ran to Merih Demiral and gave a military salute and no punishment was given. Thousands of people were killed in the Srebrenica [massacre], then did they practice something in the name of sports? That's what I'm asking too," he finished.

As Fenerbahce wait to see what their punishment is, they are set to take on Czech outfit Slovacko in a Europa League third round qualifying first leg also set to take place at their Ulker Stadium on Thursday.

According to Russian State Duma Deputy Dmitry Svishchev, however, in a nod to the bans that have been placed on Russian teams, clubs and athletes worldwide, Fenerbahce are set to "feel what Russophobia is" when UEFA hands down its ruling. 

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