Friday, November 18, 2005

Turnstiles that make them hostile

Time for UEFA to ban Turkish teams?

The deeds of British hooliganism from the 1970s up until Euro2000 are well documented. It's a sad fact that Brits become socially inept when in the throes of alcohol, and in as much as it’s typical of ‘geezer-culture’ to cowardly play down the disgrace that hooliganism represents (and how much it lets down the perception of the country abroad), this time the complaint about double standards isn't far-fetched.

On Wednesday night Istanbul was the venue of World Cup play-off Turkey-Switzerland. Turkey lost and the appalling scenes at the end of the match have been shown all around the world with players, stewards and supporters alike embarking upon a depressing free-for-all of violence.

Now, the 1985 Heysel tragedy is etched in my brain as little short of a childhood trauma. I was only a kid infatuated with football and as I tuned in to watch Juventus vs Liverpool, the European Cup Final, it suddenly clicked that people can get murdered because of football. On that occasion, English teams were deservedly handed a five-years ban and it’s about time -and only fair- that Turkey now receive similar treatment. Yet the leniency that the Turkish FA has encountered over the years, blind eye after blind eye, would suggest that UEFA may be run by a bunch of cyclopes.

Every time Turkey is host to an international match, the levels of intimidation on and off the pitch reach obnoxious heights.

Three examples spring to mind. A number of Italian shops in Turkey were attacked or burnt down as Juventus travelled to play Galatasary in the 1998 Champions League. And who doesn’t remember the death of two Leeds supporters in Istanbul in April 2000, or the incidents following England playing in Turkey in 2004?

While Swiss players were hospitalised following last Wednesday’s clashes, this is what a Turkish player, Hamit Altintop, was reported as saying to the press: “You need to know we have a very different mentality. We are more emotional when we lose. We cannot lose". How very true, how very sad.

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