Yesterday afternoon, before I set off for work, I saw Emmanuel Eboue trending on Twitter, so I just had to click. I’ve always had a soft spot for Eboue, whether it’s because of his bizarre warm ups or when he is pretending that he is fluent in Korean. Unfortunately this time, there wasn’t an opportunity to laugh, as a video on the internet showed Emmanuel Eboue being showered with various missiles in a recent game between Besiktas and Galatasaray. It was horrible to watch and something that no player deserves, as it is cowardly and pathetic from a group of supporters. To me, I was quite disappointed, as I love watching Turkish football particularly for the fan base, which can be noisy and passionate. Unfortunately however, they also have their bad side which can be seen from the weekend’s antics.
What I was mostly shocked by was the reaction of people from Twitter, including many people who are quite well regarding in the footballing world. Many people seemed disgusted that Eboue had been ‘racially abused’ by the crowd and this surprised me somewhat. I’m not an expert on Turkish football, but I do know the odd thing or two and I was mainly surprised that this would be a racial attack due to a story I heard about Besiktas from a few years ago. I always remember Besiktas for two things: Because of this story and because Les Ferdinand once had a loan spell there! Ferdinand actually told a friend of mine about his time there, where one of the first things he witnesses on the football pitch was a goat being sacrificed, something which he said shocked him.
But the other reason Besiktas stick out so much in my head is a little story from 2006 which was quite touching. When Samuel Eto’o played in a match for Barcelona against Zaragoza, the fans treated him to a chorus of monkey chants and even threw peanuts at him; some of the disgusting behaviour that no one likes to see in football. Besiktas, a club who were built on left-wing politics, showed their support to Eto’o soon after by unveiling a banner in league home game saying “We are all Eto’o” and also marched with another banner before the game saying “We are all black”. This was quite touching, and showed how the supporters of one club can help show support to someone who is being racially abused in an entirely different league.
Now, I know you may be thinking “this is hardly evidence to show Eboue wasn’t racially abused”, and I agree. But really think about it. Of all the British paper news stories I read, all of them said something along the lines of “there is nothing to suggest the motives were due to race”, merely throwing the word ‘racism’ in to give the story a bit more weight considering it is one of the major current talking points. The video many linked to had music dubbed over (which I hate in football videos on YouTube!) and surely any chants or sounds from the crowd would’ve given a bigger hint. As well as this, the claims have been denied by Besiktas, who pointed out that Besiktas fans have always been supportive of African players and the abuse he received was also given to another player in the game. Many news stories also point out that Eboue has earned a reputation as a theatrical player in Turkey and the abuse started after a poor tackle he made on a Galatasaray player. In my honest opinion, I believe that Turkey actually handle the issue of racial differences quite well.
Turkey doesn’t exactly have the greatest record when it comes to fan behaviour either. I remember quite vividly watching a Fenerbahce V Galatasaray game a few years ago in which the players had to walk off the pitch because around 3,000 seats were ripped out the stadium and supporters had also started several fires. In fact I believe that this match was featured on a recent British documentary on the rivalry, which can be seen here. I also caught a Fenerbahce V Shakhtar pre-season match this year in which Fenerbahce fans stormed onto the pitch in protest to the treatment of their club owner in the Turkish match fixing scandal. Poor behaviour is something that is seen every season, as a lack of security generally allows fans to get a bit heated.
By no means is this acceptable in any case, and Besiktas deserve to be fully punished for failing to control their fans and putting a player in a dangerous situation in which he could’ve been seriously hurt. I just find it quite sad that the British media are now attempting to milk the racism debate in order to sell more papers or get more hits on their website, when in truth it is an issue that needs to be taken seriously and diligence. It is good that racism issues are becoming a big story in a sense of them being taken more seriously, but to see many jump to the conclusion that Eboue had things thrown at him because of racism issues, which may have been fuelled by the British media in their slight suggestions of racism, was something that is quite frustrating to see. Truthfully, how many of us actually watched that game compared to how many heard about it written in the press? Truthfully, I’ll be willing to admit that I could be wrong, but I very much doubt that this story should become part of the racism debate from what I have researched.
Accusations such as this one could prevent other issues in football being ignored and in the current year where racism is a very sensitive issue, those who strongly oppose it must keep focus and help battle the issue with objectivity and assertiveness. Truthfully, I just felt like it was somewhat wrong to allow this story to become part of this debate, and although I hope Besiktas fans are punished in a manner that makes them think twice about treating a player with the same behaviour again, I hope that others can understand the media should be ignored when they attempt to use an issue such as this one in order to help their own business. I understand that the media doing this is nothing new, but when it comes to issues such as this one, I just feel they shouldn’t have as much freedom to control public opinion.
Follow me on Twitter @Clusks.