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Clubs, football fans are opposed to Saudi Arabia hosting Turkish Super Cup

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Two of Turkey’s three biggest Super League clubs, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, along with Turkish football fans, have criticized plans to have the Turkish Super Cup on Dec. 29 played in Saudi Arabia rather than in Turkey, the Voice of America’s (VOA) Turkish service reported on Wednesday.

The Turkish Super Cup is a match between the league champions (Galatasaray) and cup winners (Fenerbahçe) and is currently due to be played at Al-Awwal Park Stadium in Riyadh.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) announced last week that the Super Cup match between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe would be played in Saudi Arabia despite both clubs requesting to play in Turkey and public pressure for the game to take place at home because it marks the centennial anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish republic.

The TFF said in the statement that they “aim to generate more income through new sponsorship and cooperation models by carrying the prestige of our football abroad,” adding that this decision was taken in line with this vision.

During a board meeting on Nov. 5, Fenerbahçe proposed that the Super Cup should take place either at the Atatürk Stadium in İstanbul or at the Samsun 19 Mayıs Stadium, the home ground of Samsunspor. The club reported that the suggestion received unanimous approval.

Samsun, on the Black Sea coast, is where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk launched the War of Independence and went on to establish the Turkish Republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire on October 19, 1923.

The matter was also a central topic during a Galatasaray board meeting on Nov. 6. The club expressed its desire for the match to be held “in the Turkish homeland, which our ancestors won and protected with their blood, lives, ideas and wisdom.”

Following the rising reactions, on Nov. 28 the focus shifted to the meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and TFF President Mehmet Büyükekşi, which raised the question in the football world of whether the TFF decision would be reconsidered.

However, the statement issued by the TFF on Nov. 23 confirmed that the Super Cup match will take place in Saudi Arabia. It was also noted that ATV, affiliated with the pro-government Turkuaz Media Group, would broadcast the match.

Speaking to VOA about the controversial decision, journalist Alpaslan Akkuş said it was “misguided” since it was taken despite the fact that football fans in Turkey are in agreement about Saudi Arabia hosting the game, which rarely happens.

Akkuş said that TFF’s idea of “creating resources for the clubs” would not lead to “irreparable consequences” for any club if the game isn’t played in Saudi Arabia.

While Deniz Keskin, a student, told VOA that the match should not be held in a country that is against the principles of Atatürk, Togan Tekin said: “Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray are already significant assets. It makes no sense to have gotten to this point merely for the sake of receiving money from Saudi Arabia.”

Ties between Riyadh and Ankara suffered a heavy blow with the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously said the “highest levels” of the Saudi government ordered the killing, although he has never blamed Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS.

Erdoğan pushed hard to revive bilateral ties in 2022, a move analysts described as largely driven by economic considerations.

In April 2022 he paid his first visit to Saudi Arabia since the Khashoggi killing, where he met with MBS before traveling to Mecca.

MBS followed with a visit to Ankara in June 2022.

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