"And with that final whistle, a great match comes to an end," said the commentator as the second Beşiktaş-Fenerbahçe derby in a week came to an end on Thursday. It was a the first leg of the semi-final matchup for the Ziraat Turkish Cup, a competition that got snubbed countless times by the chairmen of both clubs because it offered little financial value.
Yet, the game that was expected to be playful had nothing to do with football throughout 90 minutes. There were three red cards from brawls and players pushing and punching each other. At the end of regular time, there were an additional 10 minutes of stoppage added to make up for the time lost. And of course, the referee was the only person people talked about after the game. Now, that's not how a great derby should be played.
First of all, this problem is almost everywhere in Turkish football and tensions generally run high in most games. Even when I was playing youth level football some of my fellow teammates would often see red cards.
In a recent game between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray's U-17 teams, one young player slide tackled his opponent so badly that it caused public outrage. But ironically the outrage was not against the misconduct of the young player, but the card given to him – yellow rather than red.
It is obvious that Turkish football is poisoned with unethical conduct and the future generations copy the behaviors of their favorites on the professional level.
The biggest issue we face here is that the public, although disturbed, accepts this poisoned spirit in a fatalistic manner.
In other words, the Turkish public has been exposed to this kind of unethical conduct so much that acting otherwise is forgotten or even worse, it is seen as foolish as an antelope wandering among hyenas.
But this was not always the case. Before the stadiums became an oxygen mask for the repressed society in the ‘80s, fans used to watch games together and the spirit of football was much cleaner. The question is what happened to football, so that it became dirty and unbearable in this country?
The most important factor is the allegations of fixing and the involvement of corrupted people in football. Back in 80's football was not such a big industry and it was not the center of attention for the corrupt.
Nowadays, the money is too big to lose, and the regulations are way too loose to stop these people. Thus, what started as a sweet journey in Turkey became a free-for-all for shrewd businessmen who had little knowledge about football but lots of knowledge about cunning ways to win.
This led to a new center of attention in Turkish football – the referee. Let us be clear, if referees are the primary topics of all football shows and columns in a country, you must suspect that there is something wrong here. Referees, just like anyone else, are human beings and it is only natural that a human would at times make mistakes.
So, why are all of these executives, coaches, players, commentators, columnists and fans only talking about referees?
I am telling you, if our regulations had been stricter and punishments on referee speculation were tougher, we would not have this crisis in the first place.
I am not talking about a new system that can teach the youth how to behave on and off the field. What we need is immediate regulations that will put an end to this masquerade and this decision cannot be left to the mercy of people in football, it must be forced by institutions outside football – like the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
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