( Globalvoices.org ) – It was an unforgettable moment as fans of one of Turkey’s main football teams, Besiktas, started throwing thousands of plush bear toys onto the Vodafone arena — Besiktas’s home turf — at exactly the 4:17-minute mark, the time when Turkey’s southeastern provinces were hit by the devastating earthquake on February 6. The club organized the protest to commemorate all the children who died in the earthquake, with plans to donate the toys to displaced families who survived the disaster. Seconds prior, license plate numbers for each of the affected provinces were shown on the scoreboard of the game played on February 26.
Fans in the stadium also chanted slogans calling for the government to resign. This was not the first football game, where anger over the delayed and inadequate state response to the earthquake-hit provinces reached the football field. On February 25, during the Fenerbahce game, fans too came up with a catchy chant calling for the government to resign: “Yalan yalan yalan, dolan dolan dolan, 20 sene oldu istifa ulan!” translating to, “Pack of lies, its been 20 years, resign buddy!”
Fans of Fenerbahce in Kadikoy: Pack of lies, its been 20 years, resign buddy!
Players of the Fenerbahce team wore uniforms with the names of provinces hit by the earthquake:
The jerseys worn by our players, featured the names of the provinces affected by the earthquake disaster that deeply saddened our country.
The club also expressed solidarity on Twitter. In a series of tweets, the club featured license plate numbers for each of the affected provinces with the text, “don’t be cold, Fenerbahce is with you,” at the minute mark of the game corresponding with the provincial license plate numbers.
Journalist Can Dundar believes the calls made during the Fenerbahce game were the first collective public calls for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to resign.
State response was swift. The leader of the nationalist party, Devlet Bahceli, demanded fans be banned from attending football games:
Presidents of all football clubs must take urgent and necessary measures to either ensure that games are played without fans or take necessary precautions. The Nationalist Movement Party is following the matter closely.
Bahceli also commented on the chants calling for the state to resign during the game. In another tweet, the leader said these calls were “irresponsible” and “insensible.” But the leader also made a spectacle out of himself by officially announcing his decision to resign from the club. Several politicians commented on Bahceli’s resignation on Twitter, critiquing the decision and saying he misunderstood:
44.374 deaths! 100,000 injured! 173,000 destroyed or heavily damaged buildings! We said there are no tents! No state! Not one single resignation! Only one person understood us, but he too misunderstood.
Leader of Future Party Ahmet Davutoglu tweeted:
The tribunes called for the state to resign. Bahceli misunderstood again, he quit the Besiktas.
The leader of another party, Muharrem Ince, tweeted, “Bahceli instead of quitting Besiktas, quit the [ruling] AKP.”