Turkey’s sports minister lashed out on Monday at moves by the football authorities to punish two top Ivorian club players for paying homage to Nelson Mandela.
Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue have been threatened with disciplinary action by the Turkish Football Federation for violating a ban on wearing political slogans on T-shirts – triggering outrage on Twitter.
Turkish Sports Minister Suat Kilic called on the federation to review its decision against the two star players with Istanbul giant Galatasaray.
“I don’t find it a healthy choice in terms of Turkey’s image abroad and the two footballers’ (freedom of) expression,” he said.
Drogba removed his club shirt after a match Friday against SB Elazigspor to reveal a T-shirt that read “Thank You Madiba”, using Mandela’s clan name.
Teammate Eboue also honoured the South African anti-apartheid hero who died on Thursday with a T-shirt that said “Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela”.
The federation defended its decision to summon the two players, saying they had not sought permission for their action.
But the move caused fury among scores of Twitter users, with some accusing the body of “fascism”.
“There’s a minute of silence for Mandela before a match in Britain but in Turkey, there are fines,” said one tweet signed by Erce Sahin.
Another Twitter user with the handle Hevallo, said: “TURKISH FASCISM in FOOTBALL like everywhere in Turkey!”
The minister also blasted a federation decision last week to initiate disciplinary procedures against a Turkish club whose footballers wore T-shirts paying homage to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Mandela: I’ll do it again — Drogba
Drogba has responded to threats by the Turkish FA to sanction him and his compatriot over their tributes to Mandela by posting a picture montage on Instagram including a photo of his own meeting with the former South Africa president.
“I’d be very interested to see your comments on this…but I’m sorry if I had to I would do it again and again. Not because of political beliefs but because this man inspired me, a country, a continent, the world!!!!! Thanks again Madiba