Football, fistfights, and me

17 Aralık 2023 Pazar

For days now, we've been seeing that photo everywhere, reading and listening to comments about the incident. We watch the punching of a referee by a club president affiliated with the AKP and the subsequent violence that ensues. A punishment has been doled out, and it's over. Is it really? Do you truly believe that Faruk Koca, who punched the referee, will be banned from football matches for life? Don't make me laugh... Ankaragücü Club was also given a five-match spectator ban and a fine of 2 million liras. What a significant penalty!

I've never been to a football match in my life. According to some, that's a major shortcoming. I should at least understand its sociological aspects or get to know the culture. I decided I could do without this culture.

Still, years ago, the Turkish National Olympic Committee awarded me the “2005 Sports Fair Play-Communication Grand Prize.” Why? Let me explain:


Back then, Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen Stadium was in Şişli. The stadium's exterior walls were covered with huge writing amidst flames: “Welcome to hell.” My grandchildren, who were little at the time, kept asking, “What does this mean?” The writing and posters, seen daily by thousands of people, including children, were truly frightening. The scariest part was everyone's accustomed, ordinary reaction to it. I started to address this, the spiral of violence, its impact on children, on our culture page.

There was an uproar. Some readers were very upset. “That writing has always been there. It's the glory of football. It’s customary to turn the stadium into hell for the opposing team/enemy...” Fortunately, some readers agreed with me. I wrote about the same topic repeatedly. My biggest supporter was the legendary sports chief of Cumhuriyet, Abdülkadir Yücelman. He wrote about it too. He also introduced me to UEFA Vice President Şenez Erzik. I shared my concerns with him, and he understood. He even announced that the word “ethics” was added to the “Fair Play” commission on the 100th anniversary of FIFA. My warning was cited as a “good example” in UEFA and FIFA meetings.

And finally, the “You can’t do it, they won’t remove it” sign was taken down. That’s why I was awarded the “Fair Play Communication Grand Prize.” Both Abdülkadir and Şenez Erzik hold a big place in my heart!


I shared this story to say that each of us can do something to reduce violence.

Now, let's look at the other side of the coin:

Violence is contagious. (I guess I repeat this in every article. But it's true...)

If only we paid as much attention and discussed every incident of violence in sports, not just those involving a team like Ankaragücü or a figure close to AKP and Erdoğan. For example, when the Fenerbahçe bus was shot at with about fifty Fenerbahçe fans inside when the Amed team was attacked...

If only we showed the same interest when nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers were punched in hospitals, when teachers were beaten, even killed in schools...

When at least 350 women are killed by men every year...

If only we could have shown them the same attention.

When constitutional and judicial decisions are ignored; when speeches and declarations that feed fear, not hope, are made; when those who thrive on discrimination, hatred, tension, and conflict pass judgment... If only we could see that all of these fuel violence like interconnected vessels.

Every time I see the photo of that punch being thrown, I remind a saying by the famous photographer Sebastião Salgado: “You take your photos along with the culture you belong to."

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