Forfeits, Fundamentals and Fist Fights – Fenerbahçe’s Desire for Domestic Equality

Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü, known simply throughout the footballing world as Fenerbahçe, are the Turkish powerhouse based out of Kadıköy in the magnificent city of Istanbul. The club is one of the most successful outfits in Turkey, having collected 19 top-tier titles while proudly sitting atop the Süper Lig all-time table.


They are beloved throughout the country, Northern Cyprus, and Azerbaijan, boasting an extensive fanbase across every continent. Famed for their passionate encounters with fierce rivals Galatasaray and Beşiktaş, Sarı Kanaryalar are not known to shy from confrontation, but the events in the most recent Super Cup showpiece against Avrupa Fatihi sent shockwaves across the globe.



The fixture was initially set for August 2023, twice rescheduled. Before the referee blew his whistle on Sunday, April 7, a mass of controversy had already consumed the tie, with the December setting in Saudi Arabia cancelled due to officials refusing to permit banners commemorating national icon Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. 


Şanlıurfa was selected for the third attempt, with Fenerbahçe immediately rejecting due to fixture congestion relating to their European tie with Greek side Olympiacos. İsmail Kartal’s company had one eye on their Europa Conference League fixture in Greece on April 11, with supporters eager to make their mark in the latter stages of continental competition.


The club were aggrieved – stating the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) was deliberately handing an advantage to their domestic rivals in scheduling the tie four days before their Greek adventure, with club president Yildirim Ali Koc declaring his intentions to start a rebellion against the TFF.


The decision to withdraw all senior players from the showpiece affair was taken, with the nine-time winners opting to field a team of academy starlets while confirming their intention to forfeit the fixture before the end of the play. Mauro Icardi scored for Galatasaray with less than a minute played at the Şanlıurfa 11 Nisan Stadium, with the youthful Fenerbahce side departing the field seconds later, joining the coaching staff in walking out of the stadium in protest and officially handing the victory to their arch-rivals. 



In a staggering statement released on Fenerbahçes official website, Koc did not hold back in enhancing the club’s message: “The injustices we have experienced, the conspiracies set up by the terrorist organisation, the assassination attempt on our football team after the away game in Rize, the lynching attempt on our football players in our last away match, our league championships that were stolen by bullying, especially three times in the last week.”


He continued: “It is time for a ‘reset’ for Turkish football. We are in a period when the swamp must be drained, and Turkish football must rebuild itself. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Regardless of the intention, desire and courage, there are qualified staff in Turkey to do this. This is the time when impartiality, fair competition and sporting ethics must come to the fore.”


These events occurred days after İrfan Can Eğribayat and Jayden Oosterwolde received one-match bans following an imposed sanction for their involvement in the events of March 17 against Trabzonspor. Following a hard-fought 3-2 victory in Trabzon, Fenerbahçe players opted to celebrate the victory with their travelling support.


Overcome with frustration following the defeat, fans of Karadeniz Fırtınası stormed the field and targeted the victorious opposition team. In response to the attacks, several players defended themselves and exchanged blows with the spectators, with videos and imagery of the shameful scenes plastered across social media within minutes.



In the aftermath, Turkish police detained 12 individuals as Trabzonspor were ordered to play six fixtures behind closed doors and received a fine of €94,000. The incident again overshadowed a hugely entertaining game of football, leading to a sense of shock and ridicule, which ultimately harms any form of progression for the league.


Additionally, several months before this occurrence, the now-former president of Ankaragucu – a top-tier club in Turkey – was arrested for punching a referee after a match, inadvertently leading to the suspension of league games by the federation for a brief period.


Having spoken with several prominent members of Fenerbahçe supporter branches, anger and a sense of betrayal stand front and centre. Despite a dark history of violence and intimidation, the majority feel that the current Turkish football campaign is the most violent in the league’s history, leaving many questioning the future of the club they hold dear. 


However, despite the flaws within the walls of the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium, it is imperative to acknowledge that this issue is not limited to Fenerbahçe but rather a manifestation of a toxic and murky environment that appears to have been facilitated by an incompetent federation that continues to struggle to establish its authority.


Did Rangers Get Their Money’s Worth for Ryan Kent?


Much of the blame lands at the feet of TFF President Mehmet Büyükekşi, with supporters feeling he is predominantly responsible for the chaos and only interested in protecting his interests. Furthermore, despite endless calls for change, Büyükekşi refuses to resign until the summer, citing the team’s participation in the Euro 2024 and a necessity for stability in their preparations. 


But the issues of today are not an anomaly, with several high-profile blackmarks etched into the history books of Turkish football.


For all of the public bravado that Fenerbahçe has displayed, they were previously the centre of public controversy following the climax of the 2010-11 campaign. Having been crowned domestic champions ahead of Trabzonspor by way of a better head-to-head record, Turkish football was shaken following an extraordinary match-fixing scandal.


Following a lengthy investigation by police forces, a highly contained criminal network was uncovered – implicating several high-profile players and officials. However, despite an array of evidence and top-tier decisions made across legal and sporting entities, the club continued to operate, and many individuals remained in their positions on and off the field.



I have had the honour of sharing time with many individuals throughout my investigations and witnessed the dedication of those striving to promote the Turkish game and enhance its popularity across social media. But these people are tired and becoming increasingly uninterested in dedicating their time to an establishment destined to operate amateurishly.


An undeniable concern is that these unthinkable actions consequently lead to negative conversations. Supporters and journalists shudder at the never-ending process of witnessing presidents take centre stage instead of the players and coaches. 


Furthermore, much-needed improvements to infrastructure have been neglected and playing fields are falling into disrepair. Additionally, supporters are discouraged from attending games due to safety concerns and the amalgamation of a barrage of unsavoury situations occurring on the field.



One supporter stated: “It’s exhausting to see ghosts every time, while absurd conspiracies are invented to release continuous statements in official accounts, throwing hints… it really is a circus.”


Ironically, having opted to forfeit their Super Cup fixture and deny their loyal supporters a chance of silverware and bragging rights over their historic rival, Fenerbahçe would lose their European encounter by three goals to two against José Luis Mendilibar’s outfit.


Although they will have an opportunity to progress when the sides meet in Turkey for the second leg, the integrity of this great club and the league it represents has taken an almighty blow. As we approach a summer where Turkey has an opportunity to shine, the passionate supporters deserve more. Let us hope the ‘Koc rebellion’ will not have been in vain.


By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / ANP / Getty Images

Subscribe to Shaun’s newsletter here.