Erdoğan shuns calls to protest Saudi Arabia match cancellation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at the Carmelite Monastery. Marton Monus/dpa © DPA International

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday moved to soothe tension following the Turkish Super Cup final cancellation in Saudi Arabia the day before.

Opposition parties and critics acuused Erdoğan’s government of silence after Saudi authorities reportedly banned Turkish sides Galatasaray and Fenerbahce from carrying banners featuring modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, ahead of Friday’s final in Riyadh.

Although Erdoğan called the incident “saddening” in his first reaction, he stopped short of openly targeting the Saudi administration.

“Turning sports into a tool for daily political competition, for whatever reason, is wrong,” Erdoğan told a literature awards ceremony in Istanbul.

Erdoğan warned against what he called “provocative” remarks. Earlier on Saturday, his government launched a probe into “disinformation” on Turkish social media about the cup final cancellation.

At least two social media users were detained for “insulting” the Turkish public, other nations and “inciting hatred,” Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on social media platform X. He did not elaborate on the content of the posts.

Both Galatasaray and Fenerbahce pulled out before Friday’s evening kick-off in Riyadh, and returned to Istanbul early on Saturday, citing “certain setbacks”.

Media reports said the Istanbul sides refused to take to the pitch after the Saudi authorities banned posters of Atatürk – a staunch secularist who abolished the Islamic Caliphate in the early 1920s.

Critics on social media referred to a potential fresh diplomatic crisis with Riyadh, citing the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul by a Saudi hit squad.

Some called for official condemnation of Riyadh over the match row.

Other Turkish users criticized the government and football federation for allowing the highly-anticipated game to be played outside Turkey, on the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic.

Ankara and Riyadh have recently been trying to mend strained ties.

Turkey’s ailing economy desperately needs capital inflow and the oil-rich Arab state remains Ankara’s favourite investor in the region.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the organizers of the Turkish Super Cup final said that the match scheduled for Friday in Saudi Arabia was cancelled because teams didn’t adhere to match regulations.

“Presenting the sport without any slogans outside its scope” was especially discussed with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF)ahead of the match, a statement said.

“Despite this consensus, it was unfortunate that the two teams did not adhere to what had been agreed upon, which led to the match not being held,” it added.

There were no immediate reactions from the two Turkish clubs.

Source: DPA International