ISTANBUL - Football is once again off the agenda of the Turkish football community as the hot debate is referee appointmens. Claims that referees are appointed on requests from Fenerbahçe irritates the Istanbul clubs, which makes a call to everybody to speak.
While referee appointments in Turkcell Super league games have always been controversial, never before has the problem hit the football community as strongly as it has now.
The Turkish Football Federation, or TFF, announced Thursday that Cemal Aydın, Ankaragücü chairman, would be reviewed for making a phone call to the referee who was supposed to officiate in Saturday’s Ankaragücü - Fenerbahçe game.
Ankaragücü claims they had known Halis Özkahya would be appointed as the referee days before the Central Refereeing Committee, or MHK, which is responsible for the appointments, announced the lists for this weekend’s games. The phone call was made after the announcement; to ensure the referee that Ankaragücü had no problem with him, the club said in a written statement. The MHK immediately replaced Halis Özkahya with Fırat Aydınus for Saturday’s game, but the move was not enough to calm things down.
Call to Aydın, Gökçek
Fenerbahçe released a written statement, in which it recalled last week’s discussions over the Fenerbahçe-Ankaraspor game’s referee. Melih Gökçek, Ankara mayor and Ankaraspor’s honorary chairman, had then argued that the referee had been specifically appointed upon a request from Fenerbahçe.
"Both Gökçek and Aydın have argued that our club is involved in referee appointments," read the statement. "We had asked Gökçek to reveal his sources of information, but before he did that, Aydın came up with different accusations. We condemn those who try to involve our club with these ugly scenarios."
The statement also called on Gökçek and Aydın to reveal the sources they got information from "in the name of creating a trustful and still environment in Turkish football."
Fenerbahçe’s archrival, Galatasaray, as expected, was not late to jump into the debate, with the club’s general manager Adan Sezgin saying the club’s silence "did not mean acceptance."
"We do not want to make a comment on the recent developments, it is not ethical," he told reporters at a press conference late Thursday. "But we are closely watching the situation, fearing that it may affect us. We know how to raise our voice when Galatasaray’s interests are at stake."
On the football pitch, it will be a different battle between Ankaragücü and Fenerbahçe. The Istanbul club won its last two games and is on the rise in the standings, while the host is only one point above the relegation zone, despite a 3-1 victory at Eskişehirspor last week. Ankaragücü fans have been calling for Aydın’s resignation for weeks now, and he may struggle to keep his post after the recent referee incident.
Galatasaray will also be in Ankara on Saturday to take on Ankaraspor. Galatasaray applied to the TFF for the match to be moved to Monday, citing that seven of its players played in Turkey’s international friendly Wednesday but the request was turned down. "They [the TFF] did not give a proper reason for the decision but they should have considered the players health and granted our request," Sezgin said at Thursday’s press conference.
Galatasaray will be missing two key names, defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal and attacking midfielder Casio Lincoln, due to injuries.