Antalyaspor have been making waves recently at a time when football news is awash with transfer rumors; few are true, many are false. But the newly promoted side from Turkey’s Mediterranean coast has apparently signed Cameroonian great Samuel Eto’o. After going through a health check up he has returned to France to visit his ill father and will complete the transfer on July 7. What is interesting about the transfer is not that the 34 year-old striker will be playing in Turkey, rather it is the government’s hand in the transfer.
Eto’o is a big name in world football (and even politics, as his work to raise awareness of Boko Haram terrorism has been recognized) and his arrival in Turkey will certainly boost supporter interest in a league that has been plagued by low attendances following the implementation of the Passolig system. In order to facilitate the transfer Antalyaspor announced that Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu assigned a private plane to carry Antalyaspor’s officials to Milan in order to complete the transfer. The news was met with disgust from many in Turkey, angry that tax-payer money—and possibly a government plane—was used for private matters. After the rage Mr. Cavusoglu made an announcement stating that the term “assign” was a misunderstanding and that the plane was “by no means a state plane”. Mr. Cavusoglu explained that as a representative of Antalya Province he is devoted to helping the team and that he just gave the names of various companies specializing in chartering planes.
A Copy of the Antalyaspor Press Statement. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/304037/AKP_doneminde_bu_da_oldu__Devlet_ucagi_ile_transfer_rezaleti.html
Whatever the reality is it is worrying that a government official would be so deeply involved in the matters of a football team. But such support is known to pay off—when elections roll around fans remember which politicians supported their teams, and in a country like Turkey, where football holds an important place in the social and cultural mind, the fans are a large part of the constituency that cannot be ignored by a populist government reeling from its setback in the recent elections.