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Soccer-Turkish Super Cup final in Riyadh postponed amid row

2 min

The Turkish Super Cup final between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce scheduled to be played in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Friday was postponed over what the clubs described as "some problems" in the event's organisation.

People wave flags in support of Turkish soccer teams Fenerbahce and Galatasaray during a gathering organised by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) at Barbaros Square in Istanbul, December 30, 2023. Reuters/Dilara Senkaya

The Turkish Super Cup final between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce scheduled to be played in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Friday was postponed over what the clubs described as "some problems" in the event's organisation.

At the heart of those issues, according to media reports, was the wish of the two Istanbul teams to wear t-shirts featuring the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during the warm-up ahead of the evening kick-off.

Turkish media said Saudi officials had rejected this demand, though it was not clear why, and that the clubs refused to play in the Super Cup final at the King Saud University venue, which is also known as Al-Awwal Park stadium, as a result.

Saudi state TV cited a statement by organisers the Riyadh Season saying the cancellation of the final 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.

The scheduled final coincides with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the secular Turkish Republic. There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials.

JOINT DECISION

"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," the two teams and the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) said on X.

It was not clear where or when the final would be staged. The joint statement thanked Saudi Arabia's football federation and authorities for efforts they made to organise the event.

There had also been media reports that Turkey's national anthem and flag would not be allowed at the final but the TFF earlier said they would feature.

Turkey's soccer teams received warm welcome on their return to Istanbul after the Super Cup final was postponed, Turkish media reported on Saturday.

Photographs and video footage showed hundreds of Galatasaray and Fenerbahce fans cheering loudly and waving Turkish flags, carrying pictures of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at Istanbul and Sabiha Gokcen airports.

The incident came amid a recent warming of relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey's President 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.

The cancellation of the final added to what has been a controversy-filled month for Turkish soccer.

The president of top-tier club Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, was arrested on Dec. 12 for punching a referee in the face at the end of a match. The TFF imposed a permanent ban on Koca and also sanctioned Ankaragucu.

The Turkish league was temporarily suspended due to the violence and when it resumed Istanbulspor walked off the pitch in protest at a refereeing decision in a Super Lig game against Trabzonspor. The game was then abandoned.

Reporting by Daren Butler and Tommy Lund; additional reporting by Burcu Karakas, editing by Nick Macfie and Ken Ferris

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