Turkish Football Fans throw Thousands of Toys onto Pitch
Besiktas supporters threw thousands of soft toys on to the pitch during the match against Antalyaspor to donate to children affected by the earthquakes.
The match was paused after four minutes 17 seconds, representing the time the first earthquake struck Turkey and Syria at 04:17 on 6 February.
The fans then began throwing the toys, which will be given to children in Turkey and Syria, from the stands.
It was accompanied by anti-government chants by the home supporters.
More than 50,000 people have died following the earthquakes.
“Our fans organised a meaningful event called ‘This toy is my friend’ during the match in order to give morale to the children affected by the earthquake,” Besiktas said.
“The fans threw scarves, berets and plush toys to be given as a gift to the children in the earthquake region.”
The Besiktas players warmed up in tops with the names of the country’s affected southern cities before a pre-match ceremony was held and fans applauded the search and rescue officers present at Vodafone Stadium.
Defender Tayyib Sanuc said: “There are more important things than football. We are going through difficult times as a country. Together we will heal the wounds.
“Our fans held a meaningful event – I was very touched. I hope we never experience such a disaster again.”
Gaziantep and Hatayspor have withdrawn from the Turkish Super Lig season following the earthquake, with Hatayspor’s Christian Atsu among the victims.
Besiktas and Fenerbahce fans continue protests
Public opposition towards Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan has been increasing since the earthquakes struck and left around 1.5 million people without basic needs.
Erdogan is due to face the toughest elections of his 20 years in power on 14 May and the Besiktas fans continued their calls for the government to resign over its response to the disaster on Sunday.
They have not been alone in voicing their opinion, with fans of Istanbul club Fenerbahce – whom Erdogan supports – making their feelings clear amid chants of “twenty years of lies and cheating, resign” during their match against pro-government club Konyaspor on Saturday.
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – the de-facto coalition partner to Erdogan’s AK party – condemned the chants as “dirty politics” and called on the two clubs to be forced to play behind closed doors to prevent further protests.
Other clubs disagree with the anti-government protests.
Caykur Rizespor, based in Erdogan’s hometown Rize, said they were “provocative acts” and called protesters “rats”.
‘It was not just joyfully donating toys’ – analysis
After the toys were thrown to the pitch, Besiktas fans erupted in anti-government chants.
It wasn’t only joyfully donating toys, it was itself a protest too.
Following the ‘government resign’ chants, the leader of the government’s de-facto coalition partner Devlet Bahceli called the chants irresponsible and idiotic as he resigned his Besiktas membership.
He also called on arrangements to be made so that matches are played in empty stadiums. Following Bahceli, five politicians from MHP also resigned.
Anti-government sentiment has risen, especially after the handling of the earthquake was seen to be inadequate, and the country’s humanitarian organisation the Turkish Red Crescent faced intense criticism for selling more than 2,000 tents to a voluntary organisation just days after the quakes struck.
Because the government does not allow freedom of assembly and expression, football games are seen as opportunities by crowds who’d like to chant protests in hundreds.