Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Turkish hooligans start riot during wheelchair basketball game

It’s bad enough that soccer hooligans spoil their own sport, but they’ve now taken to ruining competitions for other athletes. On Dec. 10 Turkish police said they had arrested at least 10 soccer hooligans after a riot broke out at a wheelchair basketball game in the capital city of Istanbul. Those arrested were supporters of two rival Turkish soccer teams, Galatasaray and Besiktas. After the violent outburst the basketball court was littered with broken wheelchairs and tear gas and several players and fans were injured.

The trouble took place the night before the arrests were made. Police detained the 10 fans after reviewing video footage of the riot. The violence started after the rival hooligans started spraying fire extinguishers and shouting obscenities at each other. The supporters of the two Istanbul soccer teams have been engaging in battles with each other for more than 100 years now. As punishment for previous acts of violence, fans of Besiktas, Galatasaray, and another club Fenerbahce, have been banned from attending away soccer games between the three teams and are also supposed to stay away from each
other in basketball showdowns.

However, the Turkish government obviously made a mistake when it didn’t ban them from mingling with each other at other sports, such as wheelchair basketball. Sedat Incesu, who coaches the wheelchair basketball team for Galatasaray, told television and newspaper reporters that fans of Besiktas shouldn’t have been allowed into the game. He asked the press who would pay for the damages to the injured players and fans. He added that if hooligans are allowed to invade sports such as wheelchair basketball then sports in Turkey will be officially dead to him.

The battle took place at the Ahmet Comert Sports Hall and television footage showed the wheelchair basketball players trying to cover their faces with their sweaters as tear gas was fired onto the court. Police officers dressed in riot gear then led fans to safety as the violence erupted around them. There were signs of the trouble to come earlier n though as the start of the game was delayed by 30 minutes after hooligans invaded the court. The brawl then broke out with six minutes to go in the second quarter with Galatasaray ahead by the score of 31-26.

Galatasaray is recognized as one of the top wheelchair basketball clubs in Europe and have won three titles in the European Champions Cup over the past four years. Even though violent skirmishes are common at soccer and basketball games, this was reportedly the first time violence has marred a disabled sporting event in Turkey.

There is pressure on public officials to crack down on the violence and it will be interesting to see what type of sentences are handed out to the 10 people who were arrested. Many fans want to see hooligans banned from sporting events for life as well as being handed significant jail sentences for their destructive behavior.

Ian Palmer

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