Istanbul — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused opposition parties of “exploiting” a dispute between two Turkish football clubs and Saudi officials.
The Turkish Super Cup final, due to be played in Saudi Arabia on Friday, was postponed indefinitely after Istanbul rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahce refused to take the field and returned home. Hundreds of supporters from both clubs arrived before dawn at Istanbul airports to greet and cheer them on.
A joint statement from the Turkish Football Federation and clubs on Friday cited “organizational disruptions” as the reason for the postponement and thanked Saudi Arabia for its efforts in organizing the match.
However, media reports claimed the dispute centered on players wearing jerseys bearing the likeness of Turkey’s secular founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and holding a banner with his motto “Peace at home, Peace in the world.” . 2023 marks the centenary of Atatürk’s proclamation of modern Turkey, and both clubs had previously insisted that the match be played at home rather than in Saudi Arabia.
Previously, media reports claimed that the Turkish national anthem would not be played and Turkish flags would not be allowed in the stadium, but Turkish authorities denied these claims.
The conflict became a hot topic over the weekend and was widely reported in opposition media. However, pro-government media, as well as Turkey’s clubs, football federation and politicians, have remained mostly silent on the issue.
Turkey’s conservative president broke his silence Saturday evening at an awards ceremony.
“We want Turkish sport, especially football, to become a subject not of controversies but of success. Making sport a subject of daily political rivalry is wrong and does not benefit our sports,” he said.
“We note that the statements made by the opposition parties since last night are only the latest examples of political exploitation,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has decided in recent years to organize international matches and tournaments before the Men’s World Cup which it will certainly host in 2034. Spain and Italy are expected to organize their Super Cups there in January.