Turkish football club Beşiktaş’s new stadium, the Vodafone Arena, was inaugurated with a ceremony on Sunday with the attendance of the country’s president and senior government officials but the team’s fans were denied entry to the ceremony to their disappointment.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, former President Abdullah Gül, many ministers as well as the team’s president Fikret Orman and board members were in attendance during Sunday’s ceremony.
The formal opening did not take place inside the stadium — which was almost entirely empty — but beneath one of the stands in front of selected VIPs with some complaining normal supporters had been robbed of the chance to participate in the long-awaited event.
One Beşiktaş fan voiced his disappointment over the ceremony in social media, saying: “As a Beşiktaş fan, this is embarrassing. Seems there is a funeral, not a brand new soccer temple opening. No fan club cheering on social media.”
The team said there will be another ceremony for the fans on Monday during the team’s match against Bursaspor.
Vodafone Arena replaced Beşiktaş’s old İnönü Stadium in the same historic location on the shores of the Bosphorus just above the Ottoman-era Dolmabahçe Palace, which had a capacity of 32,086. The stadium’s current capacity is 43,000.
Delivering a speech at the inauguration ceremony, Orman offered his thanks to President Erdoğan due to his contribution to the stadium’s construction. Orman’s frequent reference to Erdoğan during his speech as “esteemed president” was brought to attention by many social media users who said Orman was trying very hard to win Erdoğan’s appreciation. It was said that Orman used this reference for Erdoğan for 38 times during his speech.
Most Beşiktaş fans, particularly the club’s famous fan club Çarşı, were not pleased with the attendance of Erdoğan to the stadium’s opening.
Çarşı members played a key role in 2013 Gezi Park protests that sparked over the development of an İstanbul park that represented one of the biggest challenges to then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s rule.
Thirty five members of the group were put on trial on widely-ridiculed charges of trying to stage a coup but all were acquitted in late December 2015.
It had been expected that the official opening would be on Monday, when Beşiktaş are due to play their first match at the stadium against Bursaspor, with some suggesting Erdoğan did not want to face 40,000 noisy and hostile fans.
“The stadium is being opened by VIPs without taking in its own people! Fear is the best of jokes,” tweeted the spokeswoman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Selin Sayek-Böke.
Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan expressed his resentment for the treatment he received when he went to the opening of a stadium for Galatasaray, a prominent İstanbul soccer team in 2011. The fans booed Erdoğan when he entered the stadium, the TV channels — in line with being so alertly pro-government — turned down the volume of the protesters.