AEL- Fenerbahce: A Match Against Racism

Some football games are more exciting than others: the teams' performance, the points at stake, the implications of winning. All this becomes even more important when the game is not simply part of the local championship, but instead at the Europa League level. In the case of AEL and Fenerbahce, most of the excitement had nothing to do with football itself, but more with what the two teams were representing. The draw of a Turkish team and a Cypriot team in the Europa League groups came to present the game as a battle of yearlong rivals, as it was almost impossible to talk about these two countries without becoming political.

Many rushed in amplifying the political sensitivity of the game; it doesn't take too much to make football political unfortunately. The sensitivity was further endorsed by the security measures taken, more than any other 'sensitive' game in the last few years. Nevertheless, the two team's supporters showed, against popular belief, showed tolerance to one another and stated their commitment to keeping the game non-political.

In particular, Fenerbahce's fans held a huge sign saying "Football is Peace and Friendship", and kept it visible throughout the game. On the right handside of the banner there is a photo of Turkish Cypriot veteran AEL footballer, Sevim Ebeoglou, and on the left, there is the photo of Greek Fenerbache footballer, Lefteris Koutsiouk - Antoniadis. In a similar spirit, the organized AEL fans (SYFAEL) disseminated flyers to the fans that came to the game, which asked that all flags and political symbols remain outside the stadium. "We are here to cheer for AEL This is a football game, not a political march", the flyer stated. Indeed, fans across the stadium put aside any politics affiliated with their teams and cheered loud and celebrated football, creating a pleasant atmosphere.

The AEL-Fenerbahce game was held within the Week Against Racism campaign. The final score was 0-1 in favor of Fenerbahce.

 

Katerina Antoniou