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Turkey Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia called off amid Ataturk T-shirt row

Turkey Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia called off amid Ataturk T-shirt row

Istanbul rival teams Galatasaray and Fenerbahce were scheduled to play in Riyadh on Friday.

The Turkish Super Cup final between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce scheduled to be played in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh was called off over an apparent disagreement about the players’ jerseys.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and the two teams – who returned to Istanbul on Saturday after Friday’s postponed match – said the decision was made because of “some problems” in the event’s organisation.

Haberturk television and other Turkish media said players from both Istanbul football teams wanted to wear T-shirts that featured an image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of the modern Turkish republic, during a prematch warm-up, but were not authorised to do so by Saudi organisers.

Turkish media also reported that Saudi authorities did not allow banners featuring political slogans and Ataturk T-shirts to be displayed ahead of the match, including those with Ataturk’s “peace at home, peace in the world” slogan.

The clubs refused to play in the final at the King Saud University venue, which is also known as Al-Awwal Park stadium.

Saudi state TV cited a statement by organisers saying that the cancellation was the result of the teams not adhering to match regulations.

“We were looking forward to holding the match on time in accordance with the international soccer rules and regulations that require the sport to be presented without any slogans outside its scope, especially since this was discussed with the Turkish [Football] Federation in the framework of the preparatory meetings for the match,” the statement said.

“Despite this agreement, 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 has been no announcement yet on where or when the final will be held.

A joint statement by the TFF and the clubs posted on X said: “The 2023 Super Cup … has been postponed to a later date as a result of a joint decision we made with our clubs, due to some problems in its organisation.”

It also expressed “gratitude to the football federation of the host country and the relevant institutions for their efforts in organising” the event.

Many fans had wanted the annual match to be played in Turkey, which this year commemorated its 100-year anniversary as a republic.

The cancellation of Friday’s final, which some football fans on X have called “peak Middle Eastern football drama”, has added to what has been a controversy-filled month for Turkish football.

The president of club Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, was arrested this month for punching a referee in the face at the end of his team’s Super Lig home match against Rizespor, which also led to the suspension of the Turkish league.

On Saturday, photographs and video footage showed hundreds of Galatasaray and Fenerbahce fans cheering, waving Turkish flags and carrying pictures of Ataturk at the Istanbul and Sabiha Gokcen airports.

There has been a recent warming of relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia in July amid efforts to repair ties that were ruptured after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.

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