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Turkey bans Fenerbahce fans from attending away game following anti-government slogans

Fenerbahce fans called for the resignation of the government last week in wake of earthquake recovery efforts
Fenerbahce players celebrate after scoring a goal during the Turkish Super Lig week match between Fenerbahce and Konyaspor at Ulker Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on 25 February 2023 (Anadolu)

The Turkish government has decided not to allow Fenerbahce football club fans to attend a match with rival team Kayserispor scheduled for Friday, following calls for the resignation of the government in stadiums last weekend. 

Fans of Fenerbahce and Besiktas - two of the country's most prominent football teams - shouted slogans criticising the government’s handling of the recovery effort following the earthquakes earlier this month that left 50,000 people dead in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

The Kayseri Provincial National Security Council on Tuesday announced that Fenerbahce supporters wouldn’t be allowed to attend the match, which is set to be played in the city of Kayseri. 

'Lift the ban on spectators applied to Fenerbahce. Don't make football a toy of politics'

- Muharrem Ince, opposition leader, Hometown Party

Fenerbahce, in an official statement, said it was bewildered by the decision and would not accept it.

“This decision will deepen social division,” the club said.

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“It has no meaning other than hindering our fans' desire to support our team and punishing our club.”

The club called all the concerned authorities to review the decision.

“It's not just Fenerbahce fans they fear. They are afraid of all the fans, they are afraid of the stadiums, they are afraid of this nation,” said Muharrem Ince, an opposition leader from the Hometown Party.

“Immediately lift the ban on spectators applied to Fenerbahce. Don't make football a toy of politics.”

Mounting anger

There has been mounting anger across Turkey at the perceived failings of the government to handle relief efforts in the wake of the earthquakes, which struck on 6 February.

“Twenty years of lies and cheating, resign,” supporters of Fenerbahce, currently second in Turkey’s Super Lig, shouted during their team’s 4-0 win over Konyaspor.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a well known Fenerbahce fan.

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At Besiktas, during Sunday’s game against Antalyaspor, fans called on the government to resign as they threw thousands of soft toys onto the pitch to donate to children affected by the earthquake. 

After the match, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is an ally to Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), described the chants as irresponsible and disrespectful to the earthquake victims. 

“The Nationalist Movement Party strongly condemns the use of sports in dirty politics during such sensitive and painful days for our country,” Devlet Bahceli wrote on Twitter, calling on clubs to play behind closed doors in order to prevent further protests.

The Union of Clubs, which represents every team in Turkey’s top league, released a statement calling for politics to be kept out of football grounds, which was read as an implicit condemnation of the fans' calls for the government to resign.

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