FOOTBALL DIPLOMACY FAILS AT HOME

Hurriyet Daily News
Nov 2 2009
Turkey

Referee Suleyman Abay and his assistants leave the pitch under police
protection after Gaziantepspor-Diyarbakirspor game. AA photo

Football diplomacy might have created miracles for tense relations
between Turkey and Armenia, but the world's most popular sport remains
unhelpful when it comes to the Kurdish issue.

For the second time this month, Diyarbakirspor Chairman Cetin Sumer
is seeking support to withdraw from the Turkcell Super League.

The withdrawal announcement came after the team's 2-1 loss at
Gaziantepspor. "We will not be on the pitch against Galatasaray next
weekend," Sumer told the Dogan news agency. The announcement came
after an emergency board meeting late Sunday addressed offensive
chanting by Gaziantepspor supporters and questioned decisions by
referee Suleyman Abay.

Many ultra-nationalists in Turkey consider Diyarbakirspor, from the
biggest city in southeastern Turkey, to represent the Kurds and,
by extension, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The
team and its supporters have on many occasions become targets of
anti-Kurdish banners and chants.

In late September, Sumer mentioned withdrawal from the league after
a game in Bursa where Diyarbakirspor players and fans were greeted
with offensive chanting by Bursaspor fans. He later shook hands with
Bursaspor Chairman Ibrahim Yazıcı and held a joint press conference
to reduce the tension.

"This is the second time we witnessed such strong offensive chants,
following the game in Bursa," Sumer told the NTV news channel Monday.

"We reacted then, but the situation was pretty much the same in
Antalya two weeks ago and today. This shows that no precautions
have been taken. We were given promises when I made peace with the
Bursaspor chairman despite fierce criticism in Diyarbakir, but none
of those promises were kept."

Not only was the offensive chanting not stopped, but also referees
have been very negative toward the team since the game in Bursa,
said Sumer, adding that the events have cause the Diyarbakirspor
board to decide not to play against Galatasaray next weekend in a
match scheduled in Diyarbakir.

"But the final decision will be made after we consult the
non-governmental organizations in Diyarbakir," said Sumer. "After all,
this club does not belong to the board, it belongs to the city. But I
think they will support the decision, because it makes sense to stay
out of dirty games and dishonorable competition."

Despite the chairman's call for support, non-governmental organizations
in Diyarbakir were critical of the decision Monday.

Raif Turk, chairman of Diyarbakir Industrialists' Businessmen's
Association, or DÄ°SÄ°AD, told the Anatolia news agency the action
might harm the Kurdish initiative.

Diyarbakir Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Galip Ensarioglu
said the protests against Diyarbakirspor are unacceptable, but the
reaction should not be to withdraw. "The chairman and board members
make great efforts for the team, which is why their reaction might be
excessive," he said. "But something must be done. Both the referees
and football supporters of this country should act in a manner that
will serve friendship and peace."

Diyarbakirspor coach Ziya Dogan asked Sumer to reconsider the
decision. "We must play against Galatasaray ... a loss by referee
decision will result in deducting three points, which will not help
the team."

Dogan also said Gaziantepspor was a good host and that he did not
hear any offensive chants.