Cizrespor: Football won, at last…

“Due to the injustices we have faced in our own stadium as well as at away games, due to the racist and nationalist behaviour of referees and with the decision of the president of our club, Maruf Sefinc, we will pull our team Cizrespor out of the league. We don’t have enough power to stand up to the lawlessness of the Turkish Football Federation and the Central Referee Committee”.

This statement has been announced to official social media account of Cizrespor, a football club from the city of Cizre in southeastern Turkey, where Kurdish population predominates. For those who know, it was anything else but a shock. The reaction might be a little bit extreme, but racist behavior (if not hostility) against football teams from Kurdish-majority areas are not a recent phenomenon in Turkish football.

Maruf Sefinc, club’s president and former player (before becoming a successful businessman in his early 30s) said in a press conference that the whole team is tired facing racist behavior in away games. From 2015 on, when they’ve promoted to 3.Lig (the fourth tier of the Turkish Football pyramid) and they’re facing teams from other areas of the country, they feel as they’re enemies in their own homeland.

Cizrespor eventually didn’t pull out of the league. Following this statement, they decided to compete till the end of the season and further consider their stay in the league or not. That’s because the TFF officials informed them that if they stop playing their games in the middle of the season, the club will be deleted from the federation’s archives. Instead, they said that they’ll give 100% to fight for promotion.

Football in this territory is not an easy thing to do. Two of the area’s most prolific clubs, Gaziantepspor and Diyarbakirspor, were Superlig competitors just some years ago, but both almost ceased to exist. Diyarbakirspor has been relegated to 3.Lig. Gaziantepspor has faced two successive relegations in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and currently the club is inactive. A club from Gaziantep (Gazisehir SK) promoted to Superlig two years ago and currently is the only one from southeastern Turkey competing in the top-class level of Turkish Football.

Even in lower leagues the absence of clubs from this specific area is impressive. In 1.Lig (second division) there’s no team from Kurdish-speaking vilayets (administrative divisions). In 2.Lig, played in two groups, there are five teams (Amedspor, Sanliurfaspor, Elazigspor, Kahramanmarasspor and Vanspor) but the three first mentioned are in serious danger of relegation.

Most of these clubs have complained that they’re facing hostility from referees too, as if there’s a directive to cause them as many problems as possible. But nothing could be turned out.  In fact, all these teams are accustomed to this, one way or another. What they need is not be welcomed in every other ground with nationalist chants.

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