Lords and NGOs join Embargoed!’s call to FIBA to do more over Apoel fans’ racist attack

British Lords and Turkish civil society groups joined Embargoed! in calling on Europe’s Basketball Federation to do more over the violence that marred last month’s Eurochallenge match in South Nicosia between Greek Cypriot team Apoel Nicosia and Turkish side Pinar Karsiyaka. A letter to FIBA Europe head Olafur Rafnsson, signed by dignitaries such as Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, Baroness Hussein-Ece of Islington and former RAF head Sir Michael Graydon, criticised the mild sanctions against Apoel and called on FIBA to conduct a more thorough investigation of the incident and counter the serious threats from Greek Cypriot racism, claiming that failure will affect “the credibility of European basketball and also confidence in FIBA’s ability to safeguard players and fans”

Violence erupted after the basketball match on 21 December, where a quarter of the 2,000 Greek Cypriot fans present went on the rampage, attacking Pinar Karsiyaka and trying to storm their dressing room. The violence continued even after the team had been escorted off the site with a heavy police presence, with many fans targeting the Turkish team’s hotel. To date only three juveniles have been arrested.

FIBA Europe acted within 24 hours of the match, condemning the violence and fining Apoel the maximum €40,000 fine for ‘hooliganism’ and a spectator ban for their next three European home matches. In their letter, Embargoed! and the 28 fellow signatories claim FIBA is wrong to view the violence as “mere hooliganism”, pointing to Apoel’s track record for racism, as well as the actions during and after the match with Pinar Karsiyaka. They believe FIBA must do more to curb Apoel’s “fascist tendencies” as the body’s failure to even acknowledge the anti-Turkish motive behind the violence suggests, “FIBA is actually happy to tolerate racism and behaviour that endangers the lives of players and/or fans.”

Embargoed! chair Fevzi Hussein said, “We are very concerned to see the growing number of incidents in South Cyprus where Turks or Turkishness are attacked. We welcome FIBA’s quick action and condemnation of the violence against Pinar Karsiyaka, but if you do not get to the root causes of the problem – racism – you will not cut it out.” He continued, “Both Apoel Nicosia and the Greek Cypriot authorities need to show they are serious about combating racism within their society – putting it down to ‘hooliganism’ and arresting a few juveniles does not give us much confidence in their commitment. FIBA must also show its determination with a more thorough investigation [of the violence at the Apoel-Pinar match] and more meaningful sanctions.”

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