After it was reported that Greek basketball player Kostas Sloukas, who plays for Turkish team Fenerbahce tested positive for COVID-19, it’s clear that the Greek international is just one of many to pay for Turkey’s negligence.
Many countries around the world are under heavy criticism for the lack of preparedness on their part to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. As the epicentre of the virus seems to shift from China to Europe and now possibly the United States, pressure is mounting on governments around the world to stop the outbreak so that normalcy can be restored in society.
But perhaps there’s no country that has moved as recklessly and as insensibly as Turkey. After suspect reporting of confirmed cases for weeks in spite of a surge of cases in neighbouring Iran and being home to one of the busiest airports in the world, Turkey’s government has proven time and time again in recent weeks that it isn’t heeding the warnings from the World Health Organization.
While many leagues across all sports around the world have suspended play for nearly two weeks now, Turkey dragged its feet in moving games behind closed doors and then again until play was officially halted late last week.
The reckless behaviour by Turkey’s top leagues is a trickle-down effect from the Turkish government, which put its citizens at risk by even allowing top leagues to play games as recently as last Wednesday — even if no fans were allowed in stadiums and arenas for the past week.
In fact, even with positive tests among the Turkish population as early as 11 March, Turkey’s Prime Minister had ordered sporting events to take place last weekend prior to the revelation of illness among the Fenerbahce camp.
One of those directly affected is Kostas Sloukas after it was reported in the Turkish press that the Greek point guard is one of three Fenerbahce players to test positive for COVID-19. Along with Jan Vesely and Ahmet Duverioglu, Sloukas and his teammates are examples of just how reckless it was for the Turkish top flight to carry on playing behind closed doors and not follow the precedent set by leagues across Europe.
It’s a decision that was certainly a talking point on social media for several players plying their trade in Turkey, including basketball star Shane Larkin and Galatasaray striker Radamel Falcao. Even two Turkish coaches voiced their dismay in the decision to keep playing, including Galatasaray head coach Fatih Terim, who himself has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Perhaps the most direct response, however, came from footballer John Obi Mikel, who ultimately had his contract with Trabzonspor terminated by mutual consent after the Nigerian’s views on playing behind closed doors during the pandemic was at odds with the club’s chairman.
Only time will tell if the recklessness demonstrated by the Turkish government and the nation’s top leagues will have a knock-on effect on its clubs in future transfer windows.
by Peter Katsiris
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