Fan violence extreme enough to result in injuries to players and law enforcement officers, FIBA sanctions and fines, Prime Ministerial denouncements, official apologies, and now high-level hacking in the name of basketball: Who knew Eurochallenge ball could get so controversial?
The distinctly un-Christmas atmosphere has tinged the international competition ever since the craziness that followed Cyprus side Apoel Nicosia’s 82-80 victory over TBL team Pınar Karşıyaka on the island on December 21. Immediately following the game’s conclusion, the hometown fans threw rocks, chairs and other debris onto the court, according to club executives in attendance.
(The below video certainly bears this out, by the way.)
Worse yet, the violence was far from over, as Pınar Karşıyaka players and local police were allegedly bludgeoned by wooden stick-toting “fans” (and that “fans” is in quotes because folks like this really shouldn’t be sporting the title unless meant in the original sense of the English word, i.e. shorthand for “fanatics”) on the way to and even inside the locker room.
“Some” injuries to players were reported by FIBA, and the Turkish team was reportedly sequestered within the stadium for a few hours afterward.
FIBA Europe was swift in reacting, the next day slapping the Apoel club with a penalty of maximum fines plus an order that the subsequent three home games against European teams be played before no spectators.
In response to the financial beatdown, Cyprus Basketball Federation secretary-general Emilios Theodosiou was contrite, apologizing to the organizational body and decrying that “Such acts of hooliganism are an enemy to our sport and should find us all on the same side in the battle against it.”
Yet the ill will between the teams continues both in diplomatic channels and in cyberspace – and early on, the Turks are enjoying a serious advantage in the latter.
No less a figure than Turkey prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took time yesterday to denounce the game’s aftermath as evidence of rampant racism in Cyprus. Before his own parliament, Erdogan declared that “It is worrying that racism and violence against Turks … is rising in Greek Cyprus while we are striving for dialogue and reconciliation.
“Even this single incident demonstrates who favors peace and who does not want to give peace a chance on the island,” continued Erdogan.
Last week, Cyprus president Demetris Christofias took a hardline stance against the “so-called fans,” blaming them for “fostering Turkish propaganda” against Greek Cypriots internationally.
Meanwhile, in cyberspace, over 100 Cyprus-based Greek company websites have been hacked and gone offline in the past two days. Left in the wake of the hack is a black screen emblazoned with the trilingual (Greek/Turkish/English) slogan “No terror in sports” along with the Turkish national flag and the Pınar Karşıyaka logo.
THough Cyprus’ Anti-Cyber Crime Office this morning claims all 100+ affected websites are up and running as normal, more attacks are being prepared for.
BallinEurope won’t attempt to delve into the historical details surrounding such tensions and the aforementioned “dialogue and reconciliation,” but Wikipedia on the situation says in part that “In 1974, following … an attempted coup d’êtat[,] Turkey invaded and occupied the northern portion of [Cyprus]. The intercommunal violence and subsequent Turkish invasion led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Cypriots and the establishment of a separate Turkish Cypriot political entity in the north. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of ongoing dispute.”
Surely FIBA Europe officials are happy that Pınar Karşıyaka and Apoel are unlikely to meet again this season.
And, um, happy holidays…?