Turkey wants more women and children at stadiums
After watching more than 41,000 women and children cheering
wildly and waving club-colored flags in a packed stadium, the
Turkish football association said Wednesday it wanted more of the
same at its league matches.
Instead of the usual male-dominated games, the Turkish
association said it plans to allocate at least some free tickets to
women and children under 16 for all league matches this season. The
move is meant to both encourage their attendance at football games
and reduce violence.
”Turkish football needs this,” Turkish association deputy
chairman Goksel Gumusdag said.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women and children flocked to
see Fenerbahce take on Manisaspor in Istanbul, many of them wearing
the yellow and dark blue-colored shirts of Fenerbahce. The match,
which ended in a 1-1 draw, had been scheduled to be played in an
empty stadium as punishment for unruly fan behavior.
The association changed its rules this week, barring men from
attending games played by teams sanctioned for fan trouble and
instead allowing women and children under 12 to watch for free –
although a few men were in the crowd Tuesday.
”The answer has been quite clear that the more families you
have in the stands, the better the atmosphere you get,” Karen
Espelund, the first women’s delegate appointed to the UEFA
executive committee, said from a UEFA meeting in Cyprus. ”I think
this has the potential of filling up the stands but it’s definitely
also a strategy of having a slightly different type of
The women certainly created their own football flavor at Sukru
Saracoglu Stadium, which has a capacity of about 50,000 fans, by
greeting the visiting Manisaspor team with applause rather than the
Even the players from both teams got involved, tossing flowers
to the crowd before the match started.
”It’s not always that you see so many women and children in one
game,” said Fenerbahce captain Alex de Sousa, adding the memory of
the night would stay with him forever.
Outside the stadium, men gathered and coordinated chants with
the fans inside. The men screamed ”Yellow” outside, while the
women responded with ”Blue” inside.
After the match, some men waited for their wives and children to
come out of the stadium.
On Wednesday, Fenerbahce thanked the women who made their way to
the stadium, and praised their understanding of the game.
”It was a good indication of Turkish women’s knowledge of
football,” said Yasemin Mercil, a female member of Fenerbahce’s
board of directors. ”The women knew when to shout, when to
protest. They blatantly showed that it is not the women who don’t
know the offside rule.”
Fenerbahce, which could lose its league title from last season
because of a match-fixing scandal, was ordered to play two home
matches without any spectators after its fans invaded the pitch
during a friendly against Ukrainian champion Shakhtar Donetsk in
July. That prompted the idea to let in the women and children for
free rather than have an empty stadium.
”It’s a very special decision for sure,” Espelund said. ”In
this case, it obviously has worked.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this