Turkey Super Lig: Istanbulspor President leads team off pitch, abandons match after clash with referee

İstanbulspor president Ecmel Faik Sarıalioğlu disagreed with referee's decision and pulled the team off the pitch in the second half
A Turkish Super Lig clash was abandoned after the Istanbulspor president called his team off the pitch in protest.

More than a week after Turkish professional soccer was suspended following the violent assault of a referee by a club president, matches resumed on Tuesday only for the Süper Lig to immediately become embroiled in more controversy.

İstanbulspor president Ecmel Faik Sarıalioğlu withdrew his players from the pitch after his team was denied a penalty call midway through the second half against Trabzonspor, resulting in the match being abandoned.

The last-placed club had clamored for a penalty after a collision between Trabzonspor’s Batista Mendy and İstanbulspor midfielder Florian Loshaj, but play went on.

The visitors then quickly scored to go 2-1 up in the 68th minute thanks to a Paul Onuachu header, leading Sarıalioğlu to come onto the pitch and demand his team walk off in the 73rd minute.

An İstanbulspor defender, Simon Deli was seen on one knee pleading with Sarıalioğlu to let the team play the game out, but ultimately, the players followed the club president’s orders and went into their dressing room, with the referees soon following suit.

According to Turkish state news agency Anadolu, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) will have to decide what happens next.

“A team that leaves a competition will be declared a loser by default, and in addition, the number of points awarded in case of victory will be deducted from its existing points,” according to TFF rules.

İstanbulspor is currently bottom of the table and five points behind 19th-placed Pendikspor and what happened on Tuesday could significantly endanger the club’s hopes of avoiding relegation.

“It is a sad day for football … We will wait for the football federation’s decision [on what happens with the result],” Trabzonspor head coach Abdullah Avcı said after the game.

Earlier, across the city, the first match to kick off on Tuesday after the Süper Lig’s suspension had Başakşehir hosting Sivasspor in a mostly-empty stadium in an outer suburb of Istanbul.

Flowers were presented to referees before the match by children wearing shirts bearing the Turkish word for “respect.”

The home team’s manager, Çağdaş Atan, was absent from the sideline after having been suspended for a series of yellow cards in prior matches, while referee decisions had a impact on the match: two penalty kicks were awarded to Başakşehir – both hammered home by Polish striker Krzysztof Piątek – and a goal in the 62nd minute by Boz Baykuşlar was initially ruled offside, but was then given following a video assistant referee (VAR) review.

Başakşehir striker Krzysztof Piatek watches his kick find the back of the net to take the lead over Sivasspor

After the match, Piątek said with a smirk while speaking to reporters – that the quality of officiating “could be better, but it was OK.”

Sivasspor manager Servet Çetin also had his say on refereeing in the Süper Lig when asked by CNN if Turkish soccer culture has a problem with respect for officials.

“We try to approach all referees with respect and love,” Çetin said in a post-match press conference.

“Sometimes, we get angry. But this comes and goes.”

“Today, for example, I hope the referees were correct in their decisions because, otherwise, they’ll get a reaction from Sivasspor fans. This accumulates. This turns into anger,” he added.

“There are mistakes made in our country that are not made in Europe.”

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