Between Basaksehir and the presidential palace, the links are such that many have renamed the club “Erdoganspor” or “Erdogan Football Club”. The leader, Göksel Gümüsdag, is none other than Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nephew by marriage and his trusted man for many years. The club’s sponsor and main shareholder, Medipol, is a chain of private hospitals owned by Fahrettin Koca, the Erdogan family doctor who has become the Minister of Health. The Fatih-Terim stadium in the Basaksehir district was built by Kalyon, one of the construction companies that revolve around the president, involved in all major infrastructure projects.
For the stadium’s inauguration in 2014, a few days before the presidential election, the Turkish leader even put on crampons and an orange outfit stamped with the number 12 – he aspired to become the 12e Turkish President to play a gala match. He had shown his technique and scored three goals. Basaksehir is at the service of power. Its players can transform into palace messengers. In October 2019, the team made the military salute to support Turkish troops in their Operation Source of Peace in northern Syria. For several weeks, she has been showing her support for FC Qarabakh, the Azerbaijani club from Karabakh in exile. Facing Paris Saint-Germain, in an atmosphere of tensions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Basaksehir could again serve as a platform.
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Erdogan, former club president
Until 2014, Basaksehir was called the “Istanbul City Hall Sports Club”. Created in 1990 and developed in the following decade, one of its most active presidents was… Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mayor of Istanbul and president of the club between 1994 and 1998. Entrusted to relatives, he reached the first division in 2007, but, with pitiful results, it found itself on the verge of bankruptcy in 2013. Managed as an annuity by the ruling clan, the municipal club was privatized to inject money into it, while remaining in the presidential fold . By attracting a few returning stars (like Brazilian Robinho) or foreign players who had been promised a tempting salary, the team strengthened and moved closer to the top. The club took the name of Basaksehir, “the city of the ear of wheat”, the district of Istanbul located 25 km west of the Bosphorus Strait, where it was installed. This district, created from scratch in the 1990s by the then mayor, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was intended to be the model district for the Islamists. The ear of wheat was the symbol of the “prosperity” party (“refah”), to which Erdogan belonged.
In 2020, Basaksehir finally won the Turkish league title for the first time, getting the better of Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Besiktas, Istanbul’s three big historical clubs, who are used to the trophies. To the chagrin of the Istanbul supporters who, despite the good results, remain very few in support of Basaksehir. Its stadium, Covid-19 or not, is often empty.
Basaksehir enabled Recep Tayyip Erdogan to achieve his ambitions in football. Young, he almost became a professional player, according to his personal legend, and was nicknamed “Imam Beckenbauer” as this lanky and technical defender was inspired by the great German player of the time. Since he came to power, he has not stopped intervening on and off the field, on appointments in clubs or at the head of the national federation. He, on the lawns too, led purges against his opponents. The one considered the greatest Turkish player in history, Hakan Sükür, elected AKP deputy in 2011, was forced into exile after being disowned by the president. Accused of terrorism, stripped of his property, he now runs a café in the United States.
But Turkish football is also an investment ground for Qatar. The emirate that owns Paris Saint-Germain is one of President Erdogan’s rare allies on the international scene, the financier of the Muslim Brotherhood, to whom he is close. And, since 2016, Doha has announced that it has invested no less than $ 20 billion in the Turkish economy to bail it out. The sports channel of the Al-Jazeera group, beIN, headed by Nasser al-Khelaïfi, the president of PSG, holds the television rights to the Turkish championship until 2021. Qatar has bought the official broadcaster in Turkey, the satellite package D- Smart. And, in 2017, Qatar had even considered buying Basaksehir’s club from Erdogan’s relatives, as the Turkish sports newspaper reported at the time. Fanatik.