The government Tuesday strongly condemned the racial harassment of the Turkish women handball players and a crisis over hanging the Turkish flag during two matches between Turkey's Muratpaşa Belediyespor and Greece's PAOK last week.
Players had complained of PAOK fans spitting on them and hurling racist insults during the European Handball Federation Cup matches last week. The Turkish team also criticized the Greek authority's refusal to hang the Turkish flag at the sports hall in Greece's Thessaloniki during the matches. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement that the "attack" on the Turkish team reflected the "ugly face of ultranationalist and racist circles" in Greece.
"We cannot accept the prevention of displaying of the Turkish flag despite a prematch decision to do so," he added. "We call upon relevant authorities in Greece to take all measures, to ban xenophobic, pro-violence fans from sports events," he said. Turkey's Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu also issued a message condemning the incident. He said the ministry would support Muratpaşa Belediyespor and will take necessary legal steps in response to the incidents. He added that they expected the Greek authorities to be sensitive toward the issue as well. "Deliberate actions by PAOK representatives and fans against our team contradicts the sports' peaceful spirit," Kasapoğlu said.
Muratpaşa Belediyespor was eliminated from the tournament after losing its first game to PAOK 32-25. The second game ended in a 24-24 draw. Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA) Tuesday, player Ayşe Dinç said they donned jerseys with Turkish flags when the flag was not allowed into the sports hall. She said the inciting behavior by PAOK fans only motivated them to play better. "It was the first time I saw such a crowd. They made obscene gestures and spat on us. We tried to play under the heavy pressure of PAOK fans. It motivated us, we felt like we were playing for the national team," she said. Fulya Naime Bozyurt, another player who was among substitutes during the matches, said she was horrified and anxious while watching the game. "What fans did was disgusting," she said.