“Hooliganism” will soon be a thing of the past in both Turkish football and Turkish politics, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
said March 20 at a symposium on football in Istanbul ahead of the April 16 constitutional referendum, suggesting that “violence” and “coups” would no longer get people anywhere.
“As the quality of politics improved, our nation eliminated those who believe in getting power via rigging, cheating, coups, threats, destructive politics and no elections,” the president told the meeting of top football players and administrators.
“Still, we see in [debates over] the recent constitution change that there are still [politicians] who want to achieve results with hooligan policies, just like those in football,” he said, adding that the country was already eliminating football hooligans.
“Those who do not have confidence in the power of their ideas should avoid lies, slander and violence,” he said.
Turkey is heading for a referendum on April 16 on a charter change that will introduce an executive presidential system, with Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) arguing that it will introduce stability.
“Instead of discussing the content of the constitutional amendment articles, they [the opposition] have tried to confuse the minds of our citizens with lies – that exceed the power of imagination – such as that the parliament will be closed or the country will be divided,” the president said.
“There is no such a thing. The authority to terminate parliament by no means belongs to the president; there is no such a thing. The nation decides on all these issues and when an election call is made, the president and the parliament do it together,” he said.
“Just as in sports, the essence of politics is rivalry and racing. This race is in the first phase to win at the ballot box and in the second phase to serve the nation,” he said.
Erdoğan, a former footballer himself, said he learned much from the game in terms of “disciple, teamwork and loyalty.” Erdoğan regrets not hosting Olympic Games
He also acknowledged that he was still rankled by Turkey’s failure to win the right to host the Olympic Games, saying it had the ability to hold any sporting event.
Istanbul was a candidate to host the 2020 Summer Games but lost out to Tokyo in a vote in September 2013.
“We have still not been able to bring the Olympics to our country,” Erdoğan said.
“But you know what intrigues we went through then. Even though we deserved it, we were not given the Olympics,” he said.
“They gave it to the ones who would be hosting it for the second time, not who would host it for the first time,” said Erdoğan, referring to the fact that Tokyo hosted the Games in 1964.
Erdoğan did not explicitly say whether Turkey was mulling another Olympic bid.
But he said after a spree of sporting infrastructure projects in recent years that “we are always ready to hold any kind of sporting event.”
Turkey is bidding to host the Euro 2024 football championships and is hoping the construction of a succession of new stadiums in recent years will give it an edge over its rival Germany.
The International Olympic Committee is looking at awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games this year, which could lock in Paris
and Los Angeles over the next two Olympic cycles.
Erdoğan also announced plans to build a 40,000-person capacity new stadium in the capital Ankara, which lacks a world-class stadium.
In May, Istanbul will host the prestigious Final Four of European basketball’s top club competition, the Euroleague.