President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday brushed off criticism after the Turkish Super Cup final between two Istanbul giants was postponed following a row with its Saudi hosts.
Friday night’s Turkish Super Cup between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce had been due to be played in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
But it was postponed before kickoff after Saudi organisers refused to allow players to wear jerseys bearing political slogans.
Both teams had wanted to warm up wearing shirts featuring the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern-day Turkey, to celebrate the republic’s centenary, Turkish media reported.
In a joint statement, the two teams and the Turkish football federation said the match had been postponed due to “mishaps in the organisation”, while thanking the match organisers.
The Turkish Football Federation had come under fire for allowing the match to be played in Saudi Arabia rather than in Turkey as part of the republic’s centenary celebrations.
The opposition CHP party, founded by Ataturk, accused Erdogan’s government of having failed to defend Turkey’s honour.
“Neither the clubs nor the Football Federation is to be blamed,” said CHP leader Ozgur Ozel.
“The main guilty party is Erdogan, who made Ataturk … a subject of bargaining.”
Keep politics out of sport: Erdogan
Erdogan, speaking at a ceremony in Istanbul, responded “the whole world knows how we defend the honour of Turkey and the Turkish people.”
Turning sports into a political issue “is wrong, misguided and serves no purpose”, he added, warning opposition parties not to abuse what was essentially a sports event.
The fans of both Fenerbahce and Galatasaray — bitter rivals on the field — welcomed their decision not to take to the pitch on Friday, rushing to the airport to show their solidarity.
Footage showed enthusiastic fans greeting the returning players, waving Turkish flags and pictures of Ataturk.
The relations between two Sunni regional rivals Turkey and Saudi Arabia plunged into a crisis after the grisly 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Riyadh.
He was murdered at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
Khashoggi’s killing sparked international outrage, with Western intelligence agencies accusing Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of having authorised it.
Erdogan at the time said the order to kill “came from the highest levels” of the Saudi government, though he never named the powerful crown prince.
He has since sought to mend ties, visiting Saudi Arabia in 2022.
World Cup News
/ 3 months ago
FIFA on Saturday confirmed that three bids to host the Women’s World Cup in...
/ 3 months ago
A set of six jerseys that Lionel Messi wore during Argentina’s victorious 2022 World...