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Turkish football’s shocking history of violence: Attack on Fenerbahce players is just the latest incident with referees punched, fans setting stands on fire and even a GUN attack on a team bus

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Yet again Turkish football is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

There were shocking scenes of violence on Sunday as Trabzonspor fans stormed the pitch and attempted to attack Fenerbahce’s players.

It came after former Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi scored the decisive goal in a 3-2 Fenerbahce win three minutes from time, after former Manchester United midfielder Fred netted twice.

Batshuayi’s late winner saw the visiting players pelted with missiles thrown from the stands at Papara Park and things intensified after Fenerbahce celebrated their win at the end.

Furious home fans, some wielding weapons, tried to reach the celebrating players, who fought back to protect themselves.

Shocking scenes of violence followed Sunday night’s match between Trabzonspor and Fenerbahce in the Turkish Super Lig 

Angry Trabzonspor fans stormed the pitch and attacked Fenerbahce players who were celebrating their 3-2 victory

Angry Trabzonspor fans stormed the pitch and attacked Fenerbahce players who were celebrating their 3-2 victory 

The incident began with a lone supporter charging onto the pitch before former QPR star Bright Osayi-Samuel intervened

The incident began with a lone supporter charging onto the pitch before former QPR star Bright Osayi-Samuel intervened

Skirmishes broke out as the Fenerbahce players defended themselves from the fan attacks

Skirmishes broke out as the Fenerbahce players defended themselves from the fan attacks 

Former QPR man Bright Osayi-Samuel was seen raining down punches on his would-be attacker as team-mates and Fenerbahce staff waded in to help.

Belgian forward Batshuayi defended himself with a spinning heel kick against one would-be attacker, who quickly scarpered.

Fenerbahce’s players needed police protection to get back to the security of the dressing room and already the violence has been elevated to a Government level.

Turkey’s interior minister Ali Yerlikaya said the authorities were already working to identity the culprits.

Unfortunately, it is just the latest stain on the reputation of Turkish football with the world shocked back in December when Ankaragucu president Faruk Koca punched referee Halil Umut Meler, leading to the Super Lig being briefly suspended.

And yet history tells us that Turkish football has a litany of shameful violent episodes, from one team bus being targeted by gunmen, to fans attempting to burn down a stand during a match almost 20 years ago.

In the 2003-04 season, Gaziantepspor’s fans set a stand on fire during a match against Fenerbahce. Fast forward to 2010 and in a match against Trabzonspor, Fenerbahce fans set their own stadium on fire after handing bitter rivals Bursaspor the title. 

Dozens of seats were seen engulfed in flames and their were nasty clashes with police and emergency services as they looked to contain various fires that had broken out at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.

Bottles and stones were thrown at officials and officers guarding the entrance to the VIP area while chairs were ripped to pieces inside. Water cannons were required from police to disperse the angry mob of supporters outside. 

It was just the latest incident of violence to sully the reputation of the Turkish game

It was just the latest incident of violence to sully the reputation of the Turkish game

Trabzonspor fans reacted angrily after Fenerbahce scored a late winner on Sunday night

Trabzonspor fans reacted angrily after Fenerbahce scored a late winner on Sunday night

But the incident of the physical abuse of a match official has brought a series of historical clashes into sharp focus.

In 2009, assistant referee Tarik Ongun was struck by a lighter thrown from the stands ahead of the fierce derby between Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. 

Tensions are always high for the clash and yet those tensions spilled over when Ongun was targeted. He was struck and fell to the ground, requiring treatment before the match went ahead. Miraculously it went on as planned.  

Months later match officials were the target of stones thrown by furious supporters in a match between Bursaspor and Diyarbakirspor.

In an already feverish atmosphere, violence ratcheted up when the match was abandoned in the 15th minute after referee Kemal Yilmaz was hit by a stone.

As well as the referee being struck by a launched missile, Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov was also hit by a stone.

With just minutes remaining Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi restored Fenerbahce's lead

With just minutes remaining Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi restored Fenerbahce’s lead

The winner prompted an immediate reaction from the hostile supporters with flares and other objects thrown onto the pitch

The winner prompted an immediate reaction from the hostile supporters with flares and other objects thrown onto the pitch

Violent scenes erupted in multiple areas of the pitch as the players were forced to defend themselves

Violent scenes erupted in multiple areas of the pitch as the players were forced to defend themselves

The incident was later condemned on social media by Turkey's interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya

The incident was later condemned on social media by Turkey’s interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya

Yerlikaya insisted that an investigation to identify those involved in the violence was already underway

Yerlikaya insisted that an investigation to identify those involved in the violence was already underway

With the match abandoned – Diyarbakirspor would go on to be punished with three matches behind closed doors at a neutral site – Bursaspor’s team coach was battered with stones thrown while it got a police escort to a nearby airport. 

Diyarbakirspor, already on thin ice, found themselves in further hot water when another of their matches, this time against Belediyespor, was abandoned on security grounds after 50-60 fans entered the pitch.

Diyarbakirspor club officials pleaded over the PA system for calm – only for those pleas to fall on deaf ears – after Belediyespor players and the refereeing team fled to the dressing rooms fearing for their well-being as fans rushed on to attack them.

A Diyarbakirspor club spokesperson is reported to have said in his public address: ‘We stood against everything, and we will now too. We need to be an example to everyone. Our team will come on the field, applaud it. We are here for you. Please support your team. The teams will come on the field, support them. Promise?’

The moment that the fist of Faruk Koca connects with the face of referee Halil Umut Meler after a Turkish Super Lig match in December last year

The moment that the fist of Faruk Koca connects with the face of referee Halil Umut Meler after a Turkish Super Lig match in December last year

Abhorrent scenes started when the now former president of Ankaragucu punched the referee in the face

Abhorrent scenes started when the now former president of Ankaragucu punched the referee in the face

Meler collapsed to the ground after he was struck by Koca after the conclusion of the 1-1 draw

Meler collapsed to the ground after he was struck by Koca after the conclusion of the 1-1 draw

The match would go on to be abandoned in the 87th minute. 

Trouble would continue to stalk Turkish football like a shadow, with one of the most shameful incidents to date taking place in the same year of 2010. 

A first division match between Mersin Idmanyurdu and Samsunspor had to be abandoned in the first half after Mersin Idmanyurdu’s manager was stabbed six times on the touchline. 

In an episode that left the world of football totally speechless, manager Yuksel Yesilova was stabbed six times in his stomach and hip by his elder brother Murat. Miraculously he survived the assault. 

And yet violence would continue to the current day, such is the problem of football hooliganism across Turkish football. 

The safety of players became severely compromised a decade ago when there was a series of incidents of fans getting close enough to hurt star names such as Manuel Fernandes, then of Besiktas, and Burak Yilmaz, of Galatasaray.

Meler looked to protect his face after the punch while other individuals kicked him on the floor

Meler looked to protect his face after the punch while other individuals kicked him on the floor

Koca has now resigned and issued an apology for the 'grave incident' after initially claiming that he 'only meant to spit at him'

Koca has now resigned and issued an apology for the ‘grave incident’ after initially claiming that he ‘only meant to spit at him’

In Fernandes’ case he was sensationally kicked to the ground by a pitch invader during a match against Kasimpasa. 

Tensions had already frayed between the two sets of players before an invader ran on and wiped out Fernandes, leading to Besiktas’ players kicking the fan on the ground while Kasimpasa players attempted to drag him to safety.

The punishment for the fan? A one-year ban. It was hardly to prove much of a deterrent for those that followed. 

Also in the 2013-14 season Yilmaz suffered a serious facial injury when he was slashed by a pocketknife thrown from the stands in a match against Caykur Rizespor.

Still, Turkish football found itself slow to react to cleaning up its violent image across the continent.

In a bid to get to grips with a problem that nearly saw a manager stabbed to death, stadiums set alight and players fearing for their safety during matches, Turkish government introduced a ‘Violence Law’ in a bid to clamp down on violence. 

Fenerbahce fans set their own stadium on fire after handing rivals Bursaspor the title in 2010

Fenerbahce fans set their own stadium on fire after handing rivals Bursaspor the title in 2010

Yuksel Yesilova was stabbed six times in his stomach and hip by his elder brother Murat and miraculously survived the assault (ambulance pictured on the pitch following the incident)

Yuksel Yesilova was stabbed six times in his stomach and hip by his elder brother Murat and miraculously survived the assault (ambulance pictured on the pitch following the incident)

It meant that the list of banned items to take into stadiums became much stricter, while tickets would all be sold digitally with identification of buyers paramount. Attendances unsurprisingly dropped in the corresponding two seasons. 

But the issue of violence as an embed of the national game in Turkey remained ever-present and it could have cost more than 40 lives in 2015 when Fenerbahce’s team bus was shot at by a gunman.

As the Turkish giants drove away from a 5-1 win over Rizespor, the front of the bus was peppered with bullets, which struck the driver and left him ‘gushing with blood’ as he had to be rushed to hospital. 

Miraculously the driver, who was taking the team towards Trabzon airport, was able to stop the bus from veering off the road and the team, which included former Liverpool star Dirk Kuyt, all avoided any serious injuries. 

Incredulous at the level of violence embarrassing the country’s football, all Turkish Super Lig matches were abandoned as a result. The ban lasted for one week.  

Fenerbahce's team bus was shot at by a gunman in 2015 after a 5-1 win over Rizespor. The front of the bus was peppered with bullets, which struck the driver and left him 'gushing with blood' as he had to be rushed to hospital. The driver was able to stop the bus veering off the road.

Fenerbahce’s team bus was shot at by a gunman in 2015 after a 5-1 win over Rizespor. The front of the bus was peppered with bullets, which struck the driver and left him ‘gushing with blood’ as he had to be rushed to hospital. The driver was able to stop the bus veering off the road.

Fenerbahce described the attack as an 'assassination attempt' and all Turkish Super Lig matches were abandoned for one week as a result

Fenerbahce described the attack as an ‘assassination attempt’ and all Turkish Super Lig matches were abandoned for one week as a result

The team, which included ex-Liverpool star Dirk Kuyt (pictured), all avoided serious injuries

The team, which included ex-Liverpool star Dirk Kuyt (pictured), all avoided serious injuries

‘We believe the incident was a terrorist attack, targeting not only Fenerbahce but Turkish sports. We decided to postpone all league and cup games for a week,’ Turkish Football Federation chairman Yildirim Demiroren said at the time.

In a follow-up statement of their own, Fenerbahce described the attack as an ‘assassination attempt’.

‘It is a point where football comes to an end since blood has been spilled,’ it read. ‘It is Fenerbahce’s opinion that the league must be postponed until this incident is cleared up and the feelings of Fenerbahce supporters are satisfied.’

Again, it would not take long for the game to be brought into disrepute, this time in 2016 when a bomb went off outside Besiktas’ Vodafone Arena following a match against Bursapor.

It was reported that around 300–400kg of explosives, which featured iron pellets, were used in an attack on a group of riot police which had been monitoring fans leaving the match.

NTV reported that the bombing targeted police as they left the stadium, near the exit for Bursaspor supporters. Bursaspor posted on Twitter that, thankfully, none of its supporters had been injured.

Fast forward to 2017 and ire had been turned back towards players with Amedspor stars attacked by nationalist fans of 1922 Konyaspor after defeating them in an away match.

Amedspor stars were attacked by fans of Konyaspor after defeating them in an away game

Amedspor stars were attacked by fans of Konyaspor after defeating them in an away game

And so the picture is painted of how violence has become synonymous with Turkish football. The two are forever intrinsically linked. 

Last year a second-tier derby match between Goztepe and Altay had to be called off after 25 minutes after a fan assaulted a player with a corner flag.

Having previously been stopped when fireworks were thrown into the away end by home fans, things came to a head when a Goztepe supporter ran on to the pitch, picked up the corner flag and used it to attack Altay goalkeeper Ozan Evrim Ozenc.

And this year alone, as well as the disgusting attack on referee Halil Umut Meler, there have been multiple instances of violence.

One saw a UEFA Conference League match between Besiktas and Swiss Lugano in Istanbul overshadowed by Besiktas fans forcing the president of the Turkish Football Federation, Mehmet Büyükekşi, out of the stadium or fears of his safety.

Another saw Bursaspor fans of shout anti-Kurdish slogans and chants ahead of their clash with Amedspor.

Meler was pictured for the first time after the incident in hospital after he was punched to the ground and kicked in the face at the end of a match

Meler was pictured for the first time after the incident in hospital after he was punched to the ground and kicked in the face at the end of a match

While fans engaged in offensive vitriol, staff and players on both teams also clashed in violent scenes before and after the match.

Videos across social media evidenced Bursaspor fans throwing knives, bullets, and water bottles onto the pitch before the match even began, while chanting racist slogans against Kurds.

After the match tensions escalated on social media when Amedspor’s Twitter account accused Bursaspor ‘private security supervisor, club security officer, club staff, and police officers’ of physically attacking the Amedspor players in the dressing room corridors.’ Tensions rumbled on for weeks. 

Turkish football has long had – and still has – a problem with violence in and outside of its stadiums. 

When will enough be enough? 

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