Federation decision to resume Turkish football leagues stirs debate

Federation decision to resume Turkish football leagues stirs debate


The Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) plans to restart the country’s professional football leagues on June 12 have received mixed reactions from clubs and officials.

TFF chief Nihat Özdemir announced on May 6 that the Süper Lig, the First Division, the Second Division, the Third Division and the regional amateur leagues, suspended on March 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic, will resume on June 12 behind closed doors and be completed by the end of July.

Although Özdemir said the decision was taken after consultations with the Health Ministry and the Coronavirus Science Board, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said his ministry had no say in the federation’s decision.

“The federation took the decision at its own initiative, therefore, the responsibility falls on the federation,” Koca told reporters hours after the decision was announced.

“Both the decision and the responsibility are theirs.”

Although the federation said all measures to protect the health of the players and staff will be taken, some clubs are not convinced.

Süper Lig club Konyaspor argued that a protocol prepared by the TFF to set the rules for the leagues’ return was “not applicable.”

All professional clubs are required to have their players tested according to the protocol announced by the TFF.

Süper Lig club Ankaragücü announced on May 5 that one of its players tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for treatment.

“We have taken the measures regarding the suggestions in the protocol, but there is serious criticism in the sports community on these suggestions,” the club said in a written statement.

“Our esteemed coach Bülent Korkmaz, just like many other coaches, believes that the recommendations in the protocol are not applicable to real life. He underlined that it will not be easy to mentally and physically prepare players for games and motivate them to play under these circumstances.”

Konyaspor said the club will do its utmost to protect its players and staff members if the decision to play stays, but the decision should be taken by officials and executives.

“If the leagues will restart and the games will be played, a solution that will satisfy all players and staff members should be found and the players must be convinced,” said Konyaspor.

Sivasspor coach Rıza Çalımbay said the date set for the restart of the leagues was “wrong, very wrong.”

“The date is wrong regarding the preparations of the players, some are abroad, some are in other cities,” Çalımbay said.

“We want to play and complete the league at a time without risks, the later the better. The leagues were suspended when there were only a few cases, now they want to resume when there are thousands. I cannot understand why.”

Çalımbay argued that most of his players were concerned and did not want to play, questioning how they can perform their best under such circumstances.

Beşiktaş Vice President Adnan Dalgakıran said the conditions must change before the leagues can restart.
“It is actually difficult to play when there ae 1,500-2,000 daily cases,” he said. “The federation took this decision believing that the situation will get better and emphasized that the date has been set based on the current conditions and predictions.”

Süper Lig Trabzonspor, meanwhile, refuted reports that the club did not want the league competition to resume.

“We will obey whatever the decision the state takes,” said Ahmet Ağaoğlu, president of the Black Sea club.

“We could have asked the league to be registered based on the current standings. But Trabzonspor has never meddled and will not meddle in state business.”

Ağaoğlu said the final decision will be taken by the government, not the TFF.

“The TFF neither has information how the coronavirus pandemic will continue nor has the authority to decide on issues related to the matter,” he said.

“Just like the suspension decision, it is the government that will decide when June 12 nears. What the TFF just did is to come with a calendar after talks with the official broadcaster,” Ağaoğlu added.