Pride, passion and fascinating stories from Asia Minor
There's nothing quite like a summer of scandal. And this year, Turkey has had it by the truckload. With a match-fixing scandal that has become international news, it is hardly a surprise that the season’s start date has already been pushed back until September.
In all honesty, as much as I’d love to tell you everything that has, will or won’t happen... I’m one of the few million who literally has no idea where this will all end up. Speculation, as always in Turkish football, is rife but we all know that believing rumours would be foolish.
Luckily for you however, I’ve taken a break from the humidity of my garden shed to tell you just what the hell has happened over the past few months, and what could potentially happen over the next few, very important, weeks.
So, which teams are currently in trouble?Fenerbahce. At the head of the pack are last season’s ‘champions’. Chairman Aziz Yildirim is still in jail after being taken in over a month ago. Now, people of his stature don’t just get put in jail. In a country where power and money talk loudly, the significance of this will be worrying for fans of the Yellow Canaries.
Eskisehirspor and Sivasspor are also in deep water while Trabzonspor have seemingly been let off the hook after some thorough investigations. The other big name in trouble is Besiktas. Revelations about bribery and attempted match fixing have shaken any plans they had to challenge for the title with their new improved squad.
How many matches are under investigation?According to the TFF, a total of 19 matches across the Super Lig and Bank Asya 1 Division (Turkish football's second tier) are being looked at. Which ones? They won't say.
Any players in trouble?Very much so. After spending a few nights in jail, Emanuel Emenike made a swift dash for the exit. The allegation (denied by the player and club) is that Emenike was promised a transfer to Fenerbahce if he pulled out of the club's game with his then-employers Karabukspor last season.
A mystery injury kept him out of that match and Fener stuck to their promise by signing him in May. Two months later he was arrested, questioned, incarcerated and then released due to lack of evidence. By the end of the month, without kicking a ball for the club, he was sold to Spartak Moscow for €10m.
"I left Turkey because there wasn't anything going on in my life here," the Nigeria striker told reporters while hailing down a taxi to the airport. "They said stuff about my age. The police took me and put me in a cell for four days - I'd never been in a cell in my life.
"I made a decision to leave the country because my brain was not OK. I don't think I can ever come back to Turkey. I like Turkey, people welcomed me as a brother, but some people were just trying to destroy my career. I didn't know what was coming next and I didn't want to live in fear of my life, so I told Fenerbahce I wanted to leave."
Serdar Kulbilge (Ankaragucu) and Ibrahim Akin (Istanbul B.B) are also high-profile players who have had their contracts cancelled by their respective clubs. Akin, formerly of Besiktas, reportedly admitted to accepting a $300,000 race horse from Besiktas director Serdal Adali ahead of their domestic cup final match.
How about the managers?No escape for them either. Besiktas manager Tayfur Havutcu is inside, awaiting the decision on his future, while Sivas manager and former Fenerbahce captain Bulent Uygun has had his contract cancelled by his club for his involvement.
So what have the Turkish Football Federation done so far?Well, the Turkish Super Cup has been postponed to a later date for the obvious reason that the two teams set to contest it – Fenerbahce and Besiktas – may not take part at all if found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Likewise, the start date of the Super Lig has been postponed until at least September 9. With a decision due from the TFF by the end of August, it is highly likely that the league fixtures will start on that weekend.
How does this affect Turkish clubs in Europe?UEFA have said they will respect any decision the TFF makes. This therefore means that Fenerbahce could still qualify directly for the Champions League – if the TFF decide that they are free to do so.
The likelihood of that happening is decreasing every day and should Fenerbahce be stripped of the championship, Trabzonspor would be free to qualify directly.
What next...?"We don’t have a definite date but we are planning to have this sorted next week": The words of TFF Chairman Mehmet Ali Aydinlar on August 10. Watch this space...
1. Expect Hansen's head to shake about Swansea vs Wigan Pre-match attention will be on Roberto "Bob
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