There are soccer fans, there are boorish soccer fans, and then there’s this. The usual spin in sports about misbehavior in the stands is that it was only a few rabble-rousers giving everyone else a bad name. Not this time.
After the match Turkey manager Fatih Terim was quoted as saying: ‘Our fans should have behaved during the national anthems and during the one minute silence.
‘Greece is our neighbour. Today is world neighbours day, but our fans didn’t behave like neighbours in this match.’
The “best” spin you can put on this is that there’s more going on culturally than straightforward identification between Turkish Muslim fans and ISIS. Here’s one alternate read:
Let it be clear: In Turkey (especially at football matches) a one minute silence is always used to chant for those who died in terrorist attacks.
And what they are chanting is this “Şehitler ölmez, vatan bölünmez”. Translation: “Martyrs, they do not die (they are immortal), homeland (land, our land) is indivisible.”
That is a habit from our past with the terrorist organisation PKK. More than 30,000 of our citizens died over the past 30 years by the PKK (including babies, women, children, teachers, officers, doctors, students and soldiers)…
And also, they booed the terrorist, not the victims. Any victims of terrorism are accepted as martyrs in Turkish culture. There is no disrespect to them, there has not been, there will not be.
The PKK is a Kurdish nationalist group recognized as a terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997. The Kurds are the tip of the spear on the ground in Syria right now against ISIS, the perpetrators of the Paris attack. Maybe the fans took offense that they were being asked to mourn for ISIS’s victims when ISIS’s Kurdish enemy has killed so many Turks over the years. And maybe all of that was heightened by the fact that they were playing Greece, another bitter enemy, in the match. Between the Kurds, the Greeks, and ISIS, ISIS is probably third on their enemy depth chart. And yet it’s ISIS’s victims they were being asked to commemorate.
A fine theory, except … it’s curious that the Turkish team manager didn’t say any of that, no? If this was all a big misunderstanding about who was really being booed and why, and if this sort of thing routinely happens at Turkish matches, it’s passing strange that someone who’s participated in many of those matches seemed taken aback by the behavior yesterday. Which means this probably is exactly what it looks like, a stadium filled by citizens of our NATO “ally” jeering when asked to pay tribute to European victims of the world’s worst jihadi group.
Exit question: How much blame does Erdogan, who’s been steering Turkey towards Islamism for years, bear for this attitude? Would the same thing have happened under a more secular leader?