Coronavirus: ‘There is more to life,’ say footballers in Turkey upset matches haven’t been cancelled
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Footballers across Turkey have criticised the government’s decision to continue playing matches behind closed doors.
Professional sport has continued in the country without fans in attendance, despite many European countries suspending competition during the pandemic.
Turkish Football Federation (TFF) President Nihat Özdemir reiterated his league’s stance on Tuesday, saying that professional matches would “continue without spectators” until the end of April.
Fans have been banned from football matches since March 12.
In a statement, the Federation said the decision had been taken “with the advice of senior representatives of the Scientific Board and Ministries.”
But the TFF it did not understand why the decision “focused entirely” on football.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the public to avoid going out unless it was necessary, in the latest measures to contain the virus
A number of high-profile players have taken to social media to voice their opposition to the latest announcement.
‘There is more to life than football’
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Following Erdogan’s address, Uruguay and Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera posted an image on his Instagram story, which showed the social distancing of politicians in Turkey, sat one metre apart in parliament.
“I’m really sad. Are we going to defend our opponents like that?”
On Tuesday, former Chelsea player John Obi Mikel “mutually terminated” his contract with club Trabzonspor.
Mikel has posted on Instagram on Sunday, urging for games to be cancelled during “such turbulent times”.
“I do not feel comfortable and don’t want to play football in this situation.”
“There is more to life than football.”
View this post on Instagram
There is more to life than football. I do not feel comfortable and don’t want to play football in this situation. Everyone should be home with their families and loved ones in this critical time. Season should be cancelled as the world is facing such turbulent times.
Mikel did not play in Trabzonspor’s game on Sunday against İstanbul Başakşehir, and had one year left on his playing contract.
He later said that cancelling his contract was “one of the hardest decisions” he’d had to make.
“In [the] current situation we all need take care of our families, spend time with them and protect them.”
Bernard Mensah, a Ghanaian player with Kayserispor, also voiced his concerns on social media.
“Life is the most important thing on earth … this is serious thing happening and they still insist to continue do they really care about us?” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Several other players across the league have joined Muslera, Mikel and Mensah in criticising the decision by the Turkish Football Federation on social media.
‘Playing games behind closed doors … is NOT safe enough’
Football has been suspended across Europe, with the top leagues in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France all cancelling fixtures in response to the virus, while UEFA has suspended the Champions League and Europa League, and delayed the European Championships until 2021.
Nine Super Lig fixtures are due to take place this weekend behind closed doors, with current league leaders Trabzonspor scheduled to ravel to Göztepe on Sunday evening.
Eight games in Turkey’s BSL pro basketball league are also scheduled to be played.
American-Turkish player Shane Larkin tweeted last weekend that he did not understand why the Turkish league was continuing to play.
“I understand playing games behind closed doors makes things somewhat safer but that is NOT safe enough”
“I just want everybody’s safety to be the first priority and I believe cancelling the league or suspending games until we have a better control or understanding of the virus is best.”
“Playing these games is just not worth it
Turkey announced its first death from COVID-19 on Tuesday and had shut down cafes, schools and mosques in attempts to halt the spread of the virus.
On Thursday the number of reported cases in Turkey rose to 191, according to the John Hopkins University