February 6th, 04:17, a massive earthquake (7.8 magnitude) hit the southeast region of Turkey. Just over nine hours later, at 13:24, a similarly powerful earthquake (7.7 magnitude) struck not too far from the first, causing severe destruction to 10 provinces.
The sports ministry immediately postponed all sporting competitions and asked the nation to support the people affected by any means possible.
Within a day of what has been dubbed the “disaster of the century” in Turkiye, citizens started collecting clothes, blankets, and toiletries to send to the affected region. The top clubs weren’t any different.
Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Istanbul Basaksehir (IBB), Trabzonspor, and Besiktas informed the public of their efforts via their social media accounts.
Galatasaray players, including Dries Mertens, Fernando Muslera, and Nicolo Zaniolo, were pictured doing what they could to help. Mesut Ozil also assisted at IBB.
Most recent act of kindness took place a few days ago when Besiktas fans threw cuddly toys onto the pitch when the match timer hit 4 minutes and 17 secs.
All the toys were collected and handed to the kids in the earthquake zone.
At a time when the clubs have been at war with one another for many petty reasons, it was good to see them work together. Just a shame it takes a disaster for the clubs to stop bickering.
Three weeks on, the Turkish Super Lig and the lower leagues have re-started, albeit without some of the teams.
A total of nine clubs have pulled out of the leagues.
SPOR TOTO SÜPER LİG (TSL)
- Gaziantep FK
TFF 1. LİG
- Yeni Malatyaspor
TFF 2. LİG
- Adıyaman FK
- Malatya Arguvan Spor
The nine clubs will not be relegated at the end of the season. However, their opponents will be handed 3-0 victories for the rest of the season, a decision that didn’t go down well with the Besiktas chairman, whose team has already dropped points against Gaziantep FK just before the postponement of the league.
The current TSL leaders, Galatasaray, are the first to be rewarded an easy three points as they were due to play Gaziantep FK next week.
In addition, the affected teams have been permitted to loan out players to other teams in the league to reduce the financial burden on their clubs. The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) has also altered the foreigner rule of the league to accommodate any team that loans a player from the team that has pulled out.
Currently, in the TSL, a team can field eight foreign players at any time. However, if you sign a foreign player from Hatayspor or Gaziantep FK, you are permitted to play nine.
In the TFF 1. Lig, the current rule stipulates five players, which will be altered to six.
TFF 2. and 3. Lig forbids foreign layers to take part. To be honest, those leagues are regularly ridiculed as people refer to them as the “bal ligi” meaning “honey league”.
(Even though the players in those tiers are professionals, they usually spend the match arguing rather than playing football. Oh, and some of the players are relatively old lads who played at a very high level in the past)
The Turkish Football Federation also got clearance from FIFA to allow its clubs to conduct transfers until March 5th, both domestically and internationally.
At this sad time for Turkiye, everyone in the country, no matter the team you support, gets a harsh reminder that football is just a game.
A game that in Turkiye has made a somber return.
A game that is missing plenty of its teams and has lost many of its fans and players.