Football fans from two of Istanbul’s biggest clubs grabbed the headlines in Turkiye and abroad with their earthquake related actions at the weekend.
Beşiktaş players warmed up at the Vodafone Stadium before their home game on Sunday, 26 Feburary, against Antalyaspor wearing tops bearing the names of the areas affected by the devastating earthquakes that hit southeast Turkiye and northern Syria on 6 February.
Soon after the Super Lig match kicked off, the game was paused at four minutes 17 seconds to denote the time in the morning, 04:17, that the first massive earthquake had struck Gaziantep.
The club’s supporters then threw thousands of soft toys from the stands on to the pitch below, forming a thick multi-coloured carpet of cuddly toys of all shapes and sizes. The donated items were collected by the players and club officials to be distributed to children in the earthquake zones.
A statement from Besiktas FC said, “Our fans organised a meaningful event called ‘This toy is my friend’ during the match in order to give morale to the children affected by the earthquake.
“The fans threw scarves, caps and plush toys to be given as gifts to the children in the earthquake region.”
Alongside this heart-warming gesture, home fans also showed made clear their angry feelings towards the Turkish authorities with their anti-government chants.
Similar protests were made during fellow Istanbul giant Fenerbahçe’s match against Konyaspor the previous day. For ninety minutes fans all around the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium chanted “hükümet istifa” (‘government resign’).
Fenerbahçe tribünlerinden “hükümet istifa” tezahüratları.
Kahramanmaraş merkezli çifte deprem sonrasında iktidara yönelik öfke tribüne de yansıdı. Fenerbahçe taraftarları, Konyaspor maçı boyunca “Hükümet istifa” sloganları attı.#Deprem#depremler#depremzede pic.twitter.com/p6rjGrULWh
— Özgür Medya (@Ozgurmedya_tr) February 25, 2023
The chants infuriated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right National Movement Party. Slamming the protests, Bahçeli demanded action from the two clubs’ administrations and there were calls by some for their football matches to be played behind closed doors as a deterrent to other fans tempted to repeat of these scenes.
The two earthquakes that struck the country on 6 February are the worst in modern Turkiye’s history. More than 50,000 people in the region have been killed, and over 110,000 injured, with millions more displaced.
Several members of Hatayspor, including sports director Taner Savut and player Christian Atsu, were among the victims found dead beneath the rubble in Hatay, which was one of the worst affected cities.
Both the club and Super Lig team, another Gaziantep, have withdrawn from the league for the remainder of the season following the earthquakes.
Main image, top, of fans throwing toys onto the pitch during the Beşiktaş and Antalyaspor at the Vodafone Stadium in Istanbul, Turkiye, 26 Feb. 2023, to be donated to children affected by the earthquake. Photo © Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock (13784038c)