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Maccabi staff accused of threatening Turkish basketball coach Ataman


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Panathinaikos Athens’ Turkish coach Ergin Ataman has accused a member of the Maccabi Tel Aviv staff of issuing threats toward him following Game 2 of the EuroLeague playoffs.

Speaking at the post-game press conference after his team’s victory, Ataman expressed bewilderment over EuroLeague Basketball’s recent statement regarding his conduct, according to eurohoops.net.

“It’s very strange for me that a great organization [EuroLeague Basketball] that I always protect made a statement about me that I damage the EuroLeague image. Very strange,” he said.

Ataman recounted the alleged incident, revealing, “When I was going to the locker room, somebody from the Maccabi staff – I don’t know who, he was without accreditation – told me ‘You’ll see in Israel, you’ll see what the Zionists will do to you.’”

The Turkish coach, however, remained resolute, saying: “Hey come on, I’m Ergin Ataman. I’m the coach of Panathinaikos. I’m the coach of the Turkish national team. I’m a Turkish citizen. You can’t do nothing.”

The controversy stems from EuroLeague Basketball’s decision to initiate disciplinary action against Ataman and Panathinaikos after Game 1.

Following statements made by the Greek team implying political motivations behind officiating decisions, the EuroLeague accused Ataman of making “statements that are purposefully misleading and incorrect.”

Ataman challenged the organization’s response, questioning why they singled him out for criticism.

“Please – EuroLeague. If you punish me, OK. But why make a statement against me?” Ataman said. “The club made a statement about EuroLeague so they can make a statement against the club.”

He defended his right to voice dissent, highlighting his extensive experience in EuroLeague competition: “I’ve coached more than 300 EuroLeague games. I’m not stupid. I just share my opinion with Greek journalists because people want to know why I’m furious with some calls.”

The confrontation underscores the tension between Ataman and EuroLeague Basketball, raising questions about the boundaries of criticism within the sport.

Ankara slams threat

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman and Party Spokesperson Ömer Çelik condemned the aggression toward Ataman in a statement on his social media account Friday.

“We strongly condemn the aggression towards Mr. Ergin Ataman, the head coach of our national basketball team and a valuable member of our sports community. We support our coach Ergin, who represents our country with success, against all forms of aggression.”

Youth and Sports Minister Osman Aşkın Bak also commented on the matter, saying: “Ergin Ataman is the head coach of our national basketball team and a valuable sports figure representing our country. We are proud of his achievements, and we stand by our coach, who expresses his love for his country wherever he goes.”

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